The New England Patriots made the peculiar decision last spring to trade up for Joejuan Williams in the NFL draft despite cornerback being a position of strength.
Williams had trouble finding the field last season behind Stephon Gilmore, JC Jackson, Jason McCourty and Jonathan Jones, playing just 80 defensive snaps as a rookie. Williams’ second season largely has been a repeat of his rookie year despite taking on a different role. Williams has covered tight ends while playing in the box as a safety and has been on the field for just 108 defensive snaps.
Williams could move back to cornerback in Weeks 16 and 17 with Gilmore out for the season, however. He’ll be in the mix with undrafted rookie Myles Bryant to share the field with Jackson, Jones and McCourty.
Williams could be a good matchup for Buffalo Bills rookie wide receiver Gabriel Davis on Monday night. Williams, who’s 6-foot-3, 212 pounds, can match Davis’ (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) size.
“Joejuan’s a big, physical guy playing out there,” Patriots cornerbacks coach Mike Pellegrino said Saturday on a video conference call. “A lot of length, gives guys a decent amount of trouble going against him if he can use his body in the appropriate manner.
“Really, receivers would have to think about what they would want to do every time they get to the line if he was in a press position.”
Pellegrino said Williams possesses some other attributes the Patriots like when he’s not at cornerback.
Patriots safeties coach Brian Belichick expounded on those.
“It’s always good to have guys down there in run force who will play physical and tackle and use the leverage as a defender against the runner,” Belichick said. “The more he can keep learning that and gain experience, the better he’ll get. That’s always something we want in the defense, good tacklers in the DBs room.”
The Patriots might need Williams to play a bigger role next season if Gilmore, who needs a pay raise, Jackson, a restricted free agent, or McCourty, an unrestricted free agent, don’t return. The next two games could serve as an audition for the 2019 second-round pick.