Arizona Cardinals rookie CB Brandon Williams ready to defend NFL WRs
TEMPE, Ariz. — With just one season of playing cornerback under his belt, you would think Arizona Cardinals rookie Brandon Williams would be easing his way into his pro career.
Not only is Williams a quick study, but he’s making himself noticed.
Yes, it’s early, and yes, the Cardinals are merely playing soccer — what head coach Bruce Arians calls the NFL offseason work (organized team activities and mini-camp) when pads are not allowed — yet Williams is already impressing his coaches and teammates.
So much so that he’s forced his way into the starting cornerback conversation.
“Brandon has a heck of a chance,” Arians said, referring to the position opposite Patrick Peterson. “He made a nice play there at the end (of practice Tuesday), and he’s got about three interceptions so far.”
Justin Bethel is considered the favorite to be the Cardinals’ No. 2 cornerback, but he’s currently on the sidelines, rehabbing from foot surgery.
Peterson, too, had offseason surgery and is just now getting in some on-field work.
Their absences have opened the door for Williams, as well as the other cornerbacks, to see more reps defensively.
The added playing time is paying off.
“I see more things now; understand what offenses are trying to do to certain coverages,” said Williams, who the Cardinals drafted in the third round with the 92nd overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft. “My eyes are getting better. My technique is getting better. Just my overall game is gradually getting better.”
Williams is still in the infancy stages in learning to be a cornerback.
He played running back during his first three seasons in college before switching to cornerback as a senior at Texas A&M.
In his lone season at the position, Williams finished with 37 tackles, seven passes defensed and a tackle for loss in 12 games.
“I don’t get into experience. There’s a lot of experienced guys in this league that stink. We go after them ever Sunday,” Arians said. “Give me a guy that’s talented.”
And Williams is a guy that’s talented.
“Brandon is coming along very well. Obviously, there’s still some things that we can work on with him. He’s still fresh. He’s still raw, but, I think, he has the ability to capture and be a starting cornerback in this league,” Peterson said, adding about the 23-year-old, “he has the size. He has the speed. He has all the intangibles that a defensive back needs. Now he just has to get it mentally and get the playbook down, and I think he’ll be OK.”
That Williams, listed at 6-feet and 200 pounds and ran a 4.37 40 at the combine, is adjusting so well is no surprise to Arians.
“That’s why we took him in the third round,” Arians said. “It ain’t hard to play ‘dude coverage’. You all know what ‘dude coverage’ is right? You got that dude.”
Well, it may not be that easy.
Williams is anxious to learn. Cornerbacks coach Kevin Ross is constantly in his ear.
“He loves it,” Arians said. “I think some guys just love to be coached, and this guy — he loves being coached.”
Peterson and Bethel, while they’ve been reduced to spectator roles, have also become de facto assistant coaches, willing to give Williams advice on the nuances of being a defensive back in the NFL.
“Those guys are teaching me a lot,” Williams said. “Whenever they see me do (something) wrong, they come, they pull me to the side and tell me how to correct it. Those guys are a big impact on my process right now.”
With his talent and the coaching he’s received, Williams has “no doubt in my mind at all” that he can be a successful cornerback.
“The preparation, my teammates, the coaches, I know if I implement the game I’ll be ready — more than willing and ready to defend NFL receivers,” he said. “It’s just a confidence thing. It’s my teammates and my coaches that’s going to make me ready.”