Despite a worldwide pandemic and limited cap space, the New Orleans Saints have had no offseason to sneeze at.
The bulk of their makeover comes in the secondary: the New Orleans Saints lost Vonn Bell and said good riddance to Eli Apple, but locked down Janoris Jenkins and bought back Malcolm Jenkins. They’ve also re-signed aging ballhawk D.J. Swearinger and special teams ace Justin Hardee.
With the money and assets available to them, they’ve done the best they can to build a more confident secondary, one that has the attitude to fight off Tom Brady.
The key to the Saints coverage success relies, however, not on Jenkins, or Swearinger, or Janoris, or even Marshon Lattimore. The player most critical to the Saints’ success in 2020?
Whatever you’re about to say, stop it.
Put your finger down and look at the facts. Marcus Williams is the most underrated player on the Saint’s roster, and he’s well on his way to becoming one of the most respected and consistent safeties in all of football.
It’s undeniable that as far as tackling goes, Marcus Williams falls short. He hasn’t done much in that department to redeem himself of the Minnesota Miracle. Last season, he tied with Vonn Bell for the second-most missed tackles on the team.
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However, it appears the infamy resulting from his whiff may have done him some good. Perhaps a massive alleviation of expectations?
As Pro Football Focus pointed out last season, Williams has become a force in coverage. They named him the Saints’ most underrated player last November (right after his 55-yard pick-six, in fact), and that’s not all; at the time, he was the top-rated safety in the league.
The numbers are there: in the last decade, no Saints player has had more interceptions than Williams. Ten interceptions in his first three seasons is impressive, especially when you compare that with Lattimore, who only has eight.
Compare Williams, too, with New Orleans all-time leader in career interceptions, Dave Waymer. Waymer finished his career with 37 interceptions, but only had four after his first three seasons.
So why the refusal to show Williams the respect he deserves? Hop on Twitter and search “Marcus Williams Saints,” and notice how many fans have abandoned any hope for a Williams redemption, long after he’s provided many examples of why he’s outlived that notorious play.
One oft-forgotten stat of the super season was the Saints’ ability to take the ball away.
The 2009 Greg Williams-led unit bent like a pretzel, and was sloppy at times, but they managed to never break by taking the ball away 39 times in the regular season. When a defense is able to create consistent turnovers, they relieve themselves of the pressure to provide perfect coverage.
By keeping Williams around and continuing to invest in his development, the Saints will be creating a culture rewarding the accumulation of takeaways. By doing that, they’ll continue to nurture a ball-swarming defense that will feel less pressured and more relaxed.
Let’s hope true fans can give him a chance.