The New England Patriots finished up their second-straight week of the preseason on the road with a win at Tennessee.
But for one member of the Patriots, the trip to Nashville was a long-awaited homecoming. Joejuan Williams, a former Vanderbilt defensive back and Nashville native, had his best performance of the preseason this past weekend against the Titans.
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His emergence comes at a crucial time for the Patriots who are looking to fill out their secondary roster as the regular season draws closer. Williams is competing with another former second-round draft pick, Duke Dawson, along with second-year corners Keion Crossen and JC Jackson for roster spots and playing time.
He may have had a rough first spring, but Williams continually got better as training camp progressed and is now a possible candidate for a starting job. The Patriots may have found a gem in Williams, and here’s why.
Rare Size and Athleticism
Not many coverage corners in the NFL have the same dimensions as Williams. At 6-foot-4 and 212 pounds, he is much bigger than most defensive backs in the league.
The average NFL defensive back is around six-feet tall and 200 pounds. That size has paid dividends in covering taller receivers and even tight ends so far in preseason and training camp.
Not to mention his speed is deceiving as well for a guy that big. Although his 40-yard dash time of 4.64 seconds might not seem fast compared to other top receivers and corners, his acceleration allows him to get off the mark quicker and he possesses the height and strength to trail opposing receivers while still being in a position to defend a pass.
His 40-time improved to 4.55 seconds at Vanderbilt’s pro day. It’s rare to find an NFL corner who can cover deep threats and tight ends and can match their size and physicality, but Williams appears to match this description.
Respect His Ability
Williams has already gotten praise on his skills from around the league. The Patriots traded up in the second round and drafted the best available player. Bill Belichick even went as far to say he’s had a good camp, but like every rookie, he’s got a lot to learn.
But NFL players past have even liked what they’ve seen from Williams. Like former Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Johnson.
He backed this up on Saturday night in Tennessee, allowing zero catches on four targets including a pass breakup. Williams wasn’t going against backups but rather the Titans’ starting offense. He was shut-down in his coverage of Titans’ top receiver Corey Davis.
During training camp, he had 13 pass breakups and a couple interceptions to boot. Although he has shown some inconsistency, as many rookies do early in their careers, there are certainly encouraging signs to gather from his play already.
If Williams continues to improve at the rate which he has, he could vie for a starting job sooner than later.