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Cardinals cornerback Brandon Williams lines up against Michael Floyd during a training camp practice Aug. 22. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports)
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NFL.com’s Brandt: Brandon Williams a ROY favorite

Cardinals cornerback Brandon Williams lines up against Michael Floyd during a training camp practice Aug. 22. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports)

Could Brandon Williams be a candidate for the defensive rookie of the year award?

The third-round pick out of Texas A&M has been a starter since Cardinals training camp began, and at times has looked much better than expected.

Still, there have been other times where he has looked like the raw rookie most figured he would be, and now that veteran Justin Bethel is healthy and back on the field, it’s possible Williams’ grip on the starting role will start to loosen.

But if it doesn’t, and he keeps the job throughout the season, he very well could land some post-season hardware.

At least, that’s the opinion of NFL.com writer Gil Brandt, who says the cornerback is leader in the clubhouse to be the league’s best defensive rookie.

Probably the best defensive rookie I saw in my visits to various training camps this preseason, Williams matched up very well with the Cardinals’ speedy receivers in practice — he looked really good. The third-round pick has great ball skills and excels at pass breakups (he posted two against the Chargers last Friday). He boasts good size (197 pounds), height (5-11), arm length (32 1/2 inches), burst and recovery. And he’s tough; he does not go into a shell if he gets beat on a play.

Last season’s DROY, Marcus Peters, got a chance to shine in Kansas City in part because opponents threw at him in an effort to avoid veteran Sean Smith. I could see Williams benefitting from a similar situation in Arizona. I know Williams is not as safe a pick as someone like Ramsey, but I trust my eyes. I fully expect Williams to hang on to the starting spot opposite Patrick Peterson and capitalize on all the action he sees from teams afraid of going near the five-time Pro Bowler.

Williams has indeed matched up well with Arizona’s bevvy of receivers, and even in preseason games, when he’s been beat, has not exactly been torched. Along with that, coaches have also praised his ability to bounce back after giving up a completion, noting his competitive nature and confidence.

Other candidates listed by Brandt are Jacksonville’s Jalen Ramsey, Tampa Bay’s Vernon Hargreaves, San Francisco’s DeForest Buckner, Atlanta’s Keanu Neal and Oakland’s Karl Joseph.

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