New Orleans Saints Sophomore Spotlight: P.J. Williams

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Jun 16, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback P.J. Williams (25) during the final day of minicamp at the New Orleans Saints Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 16, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback P.J. Williams (25) during the final day of minicamp at the New Orleans Saints Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports /
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Now that the players of the 2015 draft class have shed their label as rookies, they are aiming to improve as veterans. Some of the players have just gotten healthy enough to make a run at competing for roles, while others are hoping to solidify and keep the ones they already earned. No player seemingly has a bigger and better opportunity than cornerback P.J. Williams.

Williams lost his rookie season to a hamstring injury in training camp last year, and even before that, he was being outplayed by Delvin Breaux, Damian Swann, and even Kyle Wilson for a chance at nickel and dime packages. He did not look like a viable option to knock out either projected starter of Keenan Lewis or Brandon Browner.

With a season of preparation under his belt, it is becoming more of a possibility that Williams not only works his way into a role, but earns himself a starting spot in the Saints young secondary.

Browner is long gone and Lewis is still recovering from three surgeries he underwent in one calendar year. Opportunity is knocking.

What does Williams bring to the table? Let’s look at his college production.

Listed at 6-foot, 196 pounds, P.J. Williams was highly productive as a Florida State Seminole. He played in 39 games over three seasons making 123 tackles, breaking up 18 passes (including 10 in his final season), and snagged four interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.

He was a two-time All-ACC selection, USA Today Second Team All-American, and the Defensive MVP of the 2013 BCS Championship. Judging by these highlights, it is not hard to see why.

At the combine, Williams struggled with a 4.57-second 40-yard dash, but blew away concerns about his quickness and explosiveness by recording a 40.0-inch vertical jump and a 132.0-inch broad jump.

His résumé on the field speaks for itself.

His actions off the field made him fall to the third round.

On April 3, 2015 – a month before the NFL Draft – Williams was arrested in Tallahassee, Florida for driving under the influence of alcohol. Eventually, the charges would be dropped and the case would be dismissed due to insufficient evidence, but the damage was done and Williams took a dive as he fell from being a projected late-first round pick to a middle-third round pick.

Saints fans were probably surprised to see Payton, Loomis, and company take a flyer on a player with character concerns. Their MO in the draft had always been to take high character players with sterling records. But as we have all begun to see in minicamps, the skill set that Williams brought was too tantalizing to pass up.

Now that he is a Saint, his prior sins have been forgiven, and he is making the most of his redemption.

According to multiple members of the media, Williams performed very well in OTAs and minicamp practices, running with the first-team along with Delvin Breaux on the boundaries and in the slot while Keenan Lewis recovers from last season’s litany of surgeries.

Evan Woodberry of the Times-Picayune, had this article on Williams’ approach to the new season.

Coach Payton even spoke highly of Williams to the media: “I’d say in this offseason, he’s done some really good things. He’s playing some nickel; he’s playing outside. I think he’s in good shape. He’s healthy. So I think we’ve seen some good things from him.”

Members of the New Orleans Advocate, Times-Picayune, and even our own John Sigler has been taking note of the plays Williams keeps making.

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  • The Saints have not had much luck drafting cornerbacks in recent years with the infamous

    Stanley Jean-Baptiste

    and

    Johnny Patrick

    a couple of years prior. It is imperative that P.J. Williams becomes a contributor.

    If he can keep making the plays he has been since the offseason began, P.J. Williams will not have to worry about suffering their fate. He might find himself with a starting job.

    The Saints’ 2015 draft class keeps looking better.

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