This offseason, the New Orleans Saints were handed a tough blow to their secondary when their former safety Marcus Williams signed with the Baltimore Ravens early in Free Agency. The team did counter this move by adding safety Marcus Maye the very same day but would then be informed weeks later of the retirement of their once All-Pro safety Malcolm Jenkins. The losses of (Marcus) Williams and Jenkins placed the team in a rough spot, now having to replace two major contributors at the safety position.
And yet, the hole in the secondary was ready to expand once again.
Defensive Swiss army knife P.J. Williams was also up for grabs and was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the start of the offseason. Williams tested the free agency waters for a while, gaining interest from other teams before ultimately deciding to come back to New Orleans. A huge move for both sides.
This may not sound like a splash signing around the league, but other than the re-signing of quarterback Jameis Winston, this is probably the Saints best move to date.
Retaining a guy like Williams, who can play a multitude of roles on the defensive side of the ball can make a major difference to a team. He has been able to be effective at the safety, cornerback and dime linebacker positions when called upon. His versatility also helps with injuries to the team as well. This past year, Williams came up big time when the team needed him, starting multiple games at safety & nickel corner.
Coming off his best season yet, I decided to show you guys how Williams makes the most out of his unique utilization within the Saints defense.
One of the first things that comes to mind when I think of Williams, is that he excels when placed in the box or near the line of scrimmage as a defensive back. He has shown time and time again that he is willing to get his nose dirty when it comes to it.
A great example of this is in this play below.
Here, you can see Williams take on a 300+ pound center, engage at the point of attack to set the edge and still be able to chase down the running back for a minimal game.
On this one, Williams recognizes toss quickly and reacts immediately splitting the tight end and the offensive tackle to get the running back down for a minimal gain.
Here’s one where he acts as a blitzer. He does a great job of stemming the tight end outside to open up his hips and loops inside quickly to create a huge sack, fumble for the team.
Another aspect of Williams’ game that is probably his strongest suit, is his ability to understand spatial awareness and maintain eye discipline. You see many of his biggest plays being made when his job is to sit free in space and react to the throw. This skillset is a big reason why the team is comfortable playing him in the safety role and why it is quite possible that he could end up in a full-time role come fall depending on what the team does in free agency and the draft.
Here, Williams is playing as one of the deep safeties in a disguised Cover 1 look. At the snap, Williams jumps down into the middle of the field as a Robber which means he is able to essentially react to whatever he feels is a threat in that area.
He sees and reads Brady’s eyes, finds the open crossing route and delivers a big hit to force a Bucs punt.
And yes, the one everyone wants to see.
The Brady pick six.
The Saints are playing a 2 High Man look here which again allows Williams to read the quarterback and find the open man freely. He is able to recognize the throw quick, jump the route and take it back for six sealing the win for his team.
There are some areas where Williams lacks in such as man-to-man coverage against receivers especially the quicker, clean route runners. But what the Saints organization has continued to preach for almost two decades now is “putting their players in the best positions to be successful”. Williams may not be valued to other teams or fit their style, which could be a reason why he has not had many options as far as free agency is concerned. But because the Saints do not ask Williams to do things that may not be his forte but do allow him to play a role that fits his abilities, it has allowed him to build a pretty nice resume in a Saints uniform. We will see if he will be able to continue to succeed in his role or maybe even in a promoted one.