With Trent Williams' status up in the air with a left knee injury, the Redskins may have to rely on tackle T.J. Clemmings to fill in for him this Sunday against the 49ers.
For the third practice this week, left tackle Trent Williams played spectator nursing an injured left knee that has put his prospects for starting this Sunday against the 49ers in jeopardy.
With backup tackle Ty Nsekhe out for another couple weeks with a core muscle injury, that means the Redskins will look to T.J. Clemmings to bookend the left side of the offensive line. Head coach Jay Gruden said that while he still holds onto hope that Williams could be ready for Sunday, he's glad Clemmings has received all of the first-team reps so far as he continues to learn the offense after being signed by the team less than a month ago.
"We're getting T.J. a lot of reps and a lot of work," Gruden said. "He hasn't had a lot of work with Kirk [Cousins] as far as cadence, rhythm of the game, protections, all that stuff. This is new to him, he just got here a few weeks ago so it's really good to get him schooled with Ty Nsekhe being out also. We have to get him up to speed and it's been a great couple days for him. He's doing a much better job."
Clemmings was brought in for depth, primarily for the scenario in which the Redskin find themselves now, with Nsekhe not able to return until, potentially, the Redskins' matchup the Eagles. Now, the team might have to lean on him this Sunday.
"I'm just preparing," Clemmings said. "That's all you can do at this point. Can't really worry about that right now, just gotta do what I'm asked to do, and continue to prepare the same way I was before. Nothing changes in that regard."
Clemmings, 25, is used to filling in on the fly. The former fourth-round pick spent his first two seasons in Minnesota, starting at right tackle and then moving over to left tackle last year when a couple of Vikings offensive lineman went down with injury. He appeared in 31 regular season games with 30 starts, 19 coming at right tackle and 11 at left tackle.
Playing tackle is still a relatively new responsibility for him. He spent the first half of his college career at the University of Pittsburgh playing along the defensive line and the only collegiate snaps he played at left tackle came at the Senior Bowl.
"I think the one thing, offensive line is just a position you have to learn," left guard Shawn Lauvao said. "T.J.'s doing a good job, he's been doing what's been asked of him. Like anything, repetition is the master of all teachers. You just keep working at it."
Guiding him through this expedited process has been offensive line coach Bill Callahan, who Clemmings says he's grateful to have with him, and Williams, handing out advice when it's needed.
"Pretty much every play I look back and he's telling me to try something, do something, coaches me up and it's pretty good," Clemmings said. "To be able to have Coach Callahan and Trent both giving me nuggets on the practice field, obviously it's not like that in a game situation, but just getting the reps in the week, and talk about that stuff, it's good."
Those who have worked against Clemmings when he initially arrived, including practice squad linebacker Pete Robertson, have already seen his growth as he's picked up what Lauvao calls a decent-sized playbook.
"He's adapting well and Trent is doing a good job of coaching him up, and you can tell the difference already in the weeks that he's been here," Robertson said. "And he's athletic for a big guy as well. He's just taking in all the information he can and really just getting ready for Sunday."
If called upon, Clemmings is looking forward to continuing the momentum of the run game, which is averaging 130 yards per game. The Redskins may have to limit a small portion of plays that only Williams might be capable of producing, but Gruden remains confident in Clemmings adjusting quickly and keeping the offense rolling.
"When you're talking about protection and you're talking about taking deeper drops and waiting for plays to develop down the field, you may limit some of those and work on maybe quicker passing game and more play-action stuff – get some help for the tackle here and there where Trent doesn't want any help. If I give him help, he gets upset," Gruden said. "But, I feel good about T.J. and where he's at. I don't think we'll have to change a whole lot. We just have to be aware that sometimes the open side left tackle – we're so used to having Trent in there that when he's not in there, we just have to be aware of that. That's all."