Arizona Cardinals CB Brandon Williams: You’ve got to invite the challenge

Sep 16, 2016, 2:29 PM | Updated: 11:00 pm
Arizona Cardinals cornerback Brandon Williams (26) during an NFL football game against the New Engl...
Arizona Cardinals cornerback Brandon Williams (26) during an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

TEMPE, Ariz. — To be a successful cornerback in the National Football League, a player must have confidence and a short-term memory. Great ball skills are a must, too.

The Arizona Cardinals believe Brandon Williams possesses all of the above. It’s why they selected him in the third round, the 92nd overall pick, in April’s NFL Draft.

Williams also possesses another trait.

“Players that are good or special players, in my eyes, are guys that are critical of themselves first; and I think he has that kind of character and I think it will be evident this week and how he’s prepared (in practice) and we’ll all see Sunday in how he performs when he plays,” defensive coordinator James Bettcher said.

“I see his character being someone who will respond extremely well.”

Williams didn’t play poorly in Week 1. Quite the opposite, really.

“Other than the two plays I think I played good,” he said. “You can watch the film, see my technique, how I was covering guys, sticking to guys. Other the two plays I feel like I had a good game.”

Those two plays, however, factored directly in New England’s two touchdowns, the only two times they found the end zone in a 23-21 win.

On the first, Williams was beaten by Chris Hogan for a 37-yard touchdown on the Patriots opening drive. A miscommunication on coverage was blamed. The second saw Williams matched with Malcolm Mitchell. The defense was good, but Williams made a play on the ball, missed and Mitchell ran 28 yards on 3rd-and-7 to the Arizona eight-yard line. LeGarrette Blount scored one play later, putting the Patriots up 17-7 five minutes into the second half.

Williams played every one of the Cardinals’ 71 defensive snaps. Nos. 8 and 43, however, are the only ones anybody remembered, or chose to focus on after the game.

“It’s just guys that never played the position before, never played football before is going to have their opinions and those opinions don’t count or don’t matter,” said Williams, referring to the criticism. “The only opinion that matters to me is my coaches and my teammates. Other than that, I don’t care.”

And how did his teammates feel he played?

“I thought Brandon had a solid game. He doesn’t look like he’s, I guess, beat. He has that same confidence, and that’s what I like about Brandon. He’s not going to shy away from the challenge,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “I was a rookie; I was in that position before. Hell, I was getting beat as well. It just comes with growing pains.”

That the Patriots went after Williams was not a surprise. It’s what teams did in the preseason as well, and what teams will continue to do.

“You’ve got to invite the challenge, that’s one of the things that my Coach (Kevin Ross) harps on, especially when we talk one-on-one is you’ve got to invite the challenge,” he said. “With that being said, the fact that I’m going to get picked on, I mean, that’s evident. People telling me that is like telling me I got a game on Sunday. Like, duh. Like I play across from the best DB in the game right now and I just started playing the position, so, I mean, duh. It is what it is.”

Counting preseason, Williams has played cornerback for all of 18 games, 13 of which came in college after he made the switch from running back his senior year at Texas A&M.

In other words, the learning curve is a steep one.

“It’s every game, every play adds a stack to my learning curve, to my experience, to how I see things, how I feel things,” he said.

This week, Williams’ challenge, as well as the entire Cardinals secondary, will be a tall one, literally.

Tampa Bay’s two best receivers each stand 6-foot-5 in Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. Evans led the Buccaneers with five catch for 99 yards and a touchdown in their season-opening win in Atlanta.

It remains to be seen how the Cardinals will choose to defend the pair; though it’s safe to assume the 6-foot Williams will see plenty of footballs thrown his way.

“You can’t hide him,” Peterson said, smiling. “He has to grow up, and at some point, he’s going to have to take the bull by the horn and wrasslin’ with it at the end of the day. But I believe Brandon is definitely showing some progress of getting better and going into the right direction.”

Follow Craig Grialou on Twitter

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