What the versatility of Joejuan Williams can truly offer the Patriots
The New England Patriots have informed second-year cornerback Joejuan Williams to prepare to serve in multiple positions and become more versatile in 2020.
Joejuan Williams is preparing for an increased and expanded role as he heads into his second NFL season with the New England Patriots.
As a rookie, Williams didn’t see the field all too much due to the stacked and congested cornerback group for the Patriots in 2019. After trading up in the second round of last year’s NFL draft to obtain Williams, he only played a total of 82 defensive snaps throug nine games (78 at corner, four at linebacker).
Unfortunately for Williams, the same stacked and congested cornerback group of Stephon Gilmore — who is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year — Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, and JC Jackson are all returning in 2020, thus leading us to wonder what the plan is going to be for Williams moving forward with the Patriots this season.
One way for any one of Bill Belichick’s players to get themselves on the field more at any time is to become a well-rounded and more versatile player. If Williams can prove to Belichick that he can offer more to the Pats than just being a big-hitting cornerback, then Belichick will find a way to utilize him to his full potential.
The only thing is … Williams (or any player) has to accept Belichick’s challenge of doing so.
According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, the Patriots have told Williams that they are interested in him becoming more versatile and serving multiple different positions. But more specifically speaking, they want him to develop the ability to transition into the safety position — which is somewhat similar to Devin McCourty making the change in 2013.
The safety position in New England isn’t as congested as the cornerback position, but there are still players who are ahead of Williams on the depth chart regardless of the position. The Patriots have re-signed Devin McCourty, renegotiated with Patrick Chung, signed a veteran free agent in Adrian Phillips, and used their top draft pick this year on Kyle Dugger.
Joejuan Williams has a size advantage over many of his rivals on the depth chart
What separates Williams from the rest of the pack is his size and length as a defensive back, which was what intrigued the Patriots the most about him coming out of Vanderbilt. Williams — 6’3, 212 lbs — lines up to be considered one of the biggest and tallest defensive backs in the entire NFL (the tallest safeties in the league are 6’4 and the tallest cornerbacks are 6’3).
See for yourself:
Safeties: Jayron Kearse, Obi Melifonwu
Cornerbacks: Ahkello Witherspoon, Richard Sherman, Kevin King, Tre Flowers, Simeon Thomas, Adonis Alexander
The Patriots are hoping that Williams’ tremendous size and length will allow him to be successful in covering larger receivers and tight ends.
Taking it one step further, Williams is actually the tallest defensive back on the New England Patriots roster:
Cornerbacks: Stephon Gimore (6’1), Jason McCourty (5’11), JC Jackson (6’1), Jonathan Jones (5’10), Justin Bethel (6’0)
Safeties: Devin McCourty (5’10), Patrick Chung (5’11), Adrian Phillips (5’11), Kyle Dugger (6’1)
While also doing their own due diligence, the Patriots are preparing for the future of the safety position in New England.
If successful, the versatility of Williams will be mildly reminiscent of Devin McCourty — who is an All-Pro safety and cornerback — while Dugger grows to resemble Chung on the other side as a hybrid safety.
After a somewhat limited rookie season, this position change proves another reason why the Patriots are still very high on Williams. At the end of the day, if Belichick didn’t see the overall worth and potential in Williams, he wouldn’t waste the time or roster spot on trying to find a way to utilize him.
If everything goes accordingly, Williams is going to find himself with more playing time this season — regardless of his ranking on the depth chart — because he will then be considered both a versatile and situational role player.
This is a great decision on behalf of the Patriots. It is a way to get Williams more familiar with their defensive scheme and understanding of the defense.
Considering both McCourty twins and Chung are all nearing retirement eventually, Williams will have a strong opportunity to prove that he can be the next long-term defensive back for the New England Patriots.