Around this time of year, the 49ers are gearing up for their all-important third preseason contest – what is affectionately referred to as the season's "dress rehearsal." Typically, starters see a good chunk of playing time compared to the other games on their exhibition slate. It's a good opportunity for teams to not only simulate a game week and get into the routine of an NFL season, but also the chance for starters to get a feel for live competitive snaps beyond the practice reps of training camp.
This opportunity certainly would bode well for Trent Williams, who hasn't played a snap since 2018. But with the league's decision to forgo the preseason in its entirety due to the abbreviated offseason, players like Williams will miss the opportunity to help knock the rust off.
"The rust is not just physically. It's mentally as well," Williams said.
Luckily for Williams (and the 49ers), the best barometer heading into the season is edge rusher Nick Bosa. Since practices have ramped up over the last week, the battle between the two players has been well-documented. General manager John Lynch went as far as to call their 1-on-1 battles “must-see TV”.
Bosa credited Williams' experience and skill as an asset, as the two rely on one another to further develop their skills. As two Pro Bowl talents going head-to-head daily, the practice reps between the duo is optimal preparation for the 49ers upcoming regular season opponents.
"Me having a year off, I was really looking forward to the preseason just to feel that game atmosphere again and to knock those nerves down a little bit," Williams said. "But luckily, I do have one of the best rushers in the league to go up against every day. And Nick is better than I even thought he was. I already knew he was top 3-4 in the game, but just going up against him every day, seeing how smart he is, seeing how hard he works and just seeing how seriously he takes the game… It's a blessing for me, because I'm able to go against him every day.
"We're able to talk and walk each other through how we're thinking, and it's been a great help to me. I couldn't even have planned a better camp as far as learning-wise and knocking the rust off."
Perfecting your craft against one of the youngest and most well-respected edge rushers in the league is certainly a valuable benefit when re-acclimating into the league. But the same goes for the ones who line up beside you.
Left guard Laken Tomlinson continues to emerge as a star along the 49ers offensive line. As an O-line mainstay, Tomlinson was the only member of the 49ers offensive line to play every snap in 2019. He's only missed one game throughout his five-year NFL career and earned a 68.8 overall grade last season, ranked 23rd among guards, including the playoffs.
Tomlinson has been one of the highlights of camp, winning the bulk of his battles in pass protection drills. With Bosa lined up across from him and Tomlinson as his neighboring lineman, Williams is surrounded by talent to help get settled in his first season in San Francisco.
"Ever since the day I got here, (Laken's) just been helping me learn the nuances of this offense and just being there as constant positive reinforcement for me," Williams said. "We kind of do the same thing for each other. I tell him he's got everything that you need in an All-Pro guard."
Now with their new left tackle in tow, the 49ers appear to have the pieces in place to pick up where they left off. In just a few months with his new team, Williams has quickly picked up the vibe surrounding the team. With sights set on exceeding the production of their 2019 campaign, Williams is just as motivated to finish what's been started in San Francisco.
"Everybody is still holding a grudge about the last game and they can't wait to get out there and start the quest again," Williams said. "I'm just happy to be a part of it. And hopefully I can get back to the big dance with those guys and we can have a different outcome. They're definitely motivated, and they're definitely driven by the way that last year resulted."