When the Ravens' starting defense lined up for a recent practice during organized team activities (OTAs), and they had a new face in the middle of the line.
Second-year defensive lineman Brandon Williams was in the heart of the defense, taking reps with the first team in the absence of perennial Pro Bowler Haloti Ngata.
And by all accounts, Williams made the most of his opportunity.
"Brandon has looked really good," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "He's explosive, he's quick, but he's playing [good] fundamentals."
Williams, a third-round pick last season, is coming off a rookie campaign that was mostly a learning experience. He played in seven games, registering six tackles, one sack and one fumble recovery. He was mostly a reserve behind veteran linemen, and saw 93 snaps on defense.
"I learned to be a pro," Williams said. "I was watching Haloti, Chris Canty, Arthur Jones. I learned how to be a pro and how to conduct myself like they do."
Now the Ravens expect Williams to put that knowledge into practice, as he's one of several players who could take on increased roles in their second season. The Ravens have to make up for the loss of Jones, who signed with the Colts in free agency this offseason.
Williams, 6-foot-1 and 335 pounds, is built to play in the middle of the defensive line, which is the same spot as Ngata. The Ravens also like to use a heavy rotation up front, so Williams could end up working at multiple spots on the line.
"That versatility – and Haloti can do the same thing – that gives you guys that can move around a little bit," Harbaugh said.
Ngata is still the anchor of the Ravens defensive front at nose tackle, but Williams gives the Ravens depth and another big body to pair with Ngata. The team also re-signed Terrence Cody to compete for a spot this offseason.
Williams has all the physical tools to develop into a disruptive force on the line. He's one of the strongest players on the team and he can even pull off the impressive stunt of walking on his hands.
He continued to bulk up in the weight room this offseason, so offensive lineman will have a harder time moving him.
"The way he's built – you're not going to see that body-type too much," Harbaugh said. "The amount of muscle he has packed on that frame of his is pretty incredible."
Williams' size and statue allowed him to dominate the college game at the Division II level, but then he had a big jump to make when he moved to the NFL level. He was never outmatched physically, but like all rookies, he had to manage the steep learning curve that comes with mastering an NFL playbook.
"Physically I was fine. Football is football," Williams said. "The mental jump was just learning a whole new playbook, getting schemes right. But that's done now. I'm in my second year and I'm ready to go."