P.J. Williams has a familiar tale in regards to his time with the New Orleans Saints. Much like fellow cornerback Patrick Robinson, his time with the team has been filled with highs and lows. In 2018, Williams had a roller coaster of a season which included spot duty through the first two weeks, then a short stint starting opposite Marshon Lattimore, and then finally finding significant playing time in slot relief of the injured Robinson. His 2018 season could also serve as a summary of the ups and downs he’s faced since being drafted in 2015. Williams has proven to be scrappy and gifted with a short-term memory, recovering from a bad play to make a good one, almost back to back.
After a scary concussion injury in 2016, Williams was granted the starting nod in 2017, only to be surpassed by undrafted free agent Ken Crawley in the 3rd game of the season. P.J. would only see spot duty in the slot for the remainder of the season. Despite being injured, Williams survived roster cutdowns to start 2018 and began the season as the #4 cornerback behind Lattimore, Crawley, and Robinson. Another opportunity presented itself to Williams after two weeks of poor play from Crawley. In week 3 versus the Atlanta Falcons, Williams took over the starting CB job opposite Lattimore and had one of his worst halves of football in his professional career. Falcons rookie Calvin Ridley introduced himself to the football world by racing past Williams for 30 minutes of football. Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen had seen enough and re-inserted Crawley to finish the game while putting Lattimore on Ridley.
As things have gone for Williams, one door closed and another opened. Late in the Falcons matchup, Robinson suffered a season-ending injury and Williams was right back in the mix. With no true threat to take his spot in the nickel-back role, fans got a better look at what P.J. had to offer. Williams gave a flash of his potential against the Minnesota Vikings. After a horrible first half in coverage, P.J. was excellent in the second half, picking off Kirk Cousins and returning the pass for a touchdown.
As Williams settled in over the next few games, the defense started to gel around him. The addition of Eli Apple coincided with a run of dominance for the Saints and Williams’ progression. One pivotal play involving Williams occurred in week 16 when the Saints needed a win to clinch the #1 seed. Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster caught a short pass over the middle and turned up field and was met by Williams and Sheldon Rankins. Smith-Schuster fumbled the football and it was recovered by the Saints to the seal the game.
Though his performances down the stretch had an up and down feel, Williams may not have done enough to remain a Saint going forward. As an impending free agent who received substantial snaps while subbing in for Robinson, it’s possible the Saints see Williams as expendable but Who Dat Nation will find out his fate very soon.
P.J. Williams - At a Glance
Approximate value: 3
Overall grade: 55.0
Coverage grade: 48.0
Total snaps: 693 Defensive, 23 Special Teams