The New York Jets (completely logical) decision to release Antonio Cromartie has created an opening at the starting outside cornerback spot opposite of Darelle Revis. It is expected the team will make an addition or two through free agency or the NFL Draft but their best option to replace Cromartie is likely already on the roster, third year corner Marcus Williams. Let’s step into the film room to take a closer look at Williams’ game and what the team might expect from him in a full time role next season…
2015 Stat Line
- 13 games played (3 started)
- 285 total defensive snaps (22 per game)
- 27 tackles
- 10 passes defensed
- 6 interceptions
- 1 forced fumble,1 fumble recovery
- 1.5 sacks
- 5’11, 192 pounds
- 4.57 forty yard dash
- UDFA (2014)
- 8 games played in 2014 (29 tackles, 1 INT, 7 passes defensed)
Williams was used by Todd Bowles in a multitude of ways throughout the 2015 season. The three primary ones were on the outside, as a replacement for Antonio Cromartie or Darrelle Revis when they were banged up, in the slot in sub packages and a brief stint at safety in the middle of the season.
The decision to try him at safety was due to injuries and a lack of depth but was not a wise one. Williams looked completely out of sorts, particularly when he spent the majority of the game against Oakland playing free safety. Unlike when he was lined up at corner, he showed poor angles and tackling form, while struggling to break into his coverage zones quick enough. This performance is understandable considering his lack of experience at the position.
Williams also didn’t play well when asked to line up in the slot. He seemed to lose a degree of physicality and overall comfort, struggling with inferior receivers compared to the ones he was tasked with on the outside. Below Greg Salas is able to take advantage of him on a third down out-cut, as Williams is too easily moved off his mark while trying to guard against the first down.
Similarly against Oakland, he struggles to force the receiver off his stem, allowing him to keep his spacing on the vertical route and convert a big play over the top of his head.
Fortunately, the Jets will likely be looking to use Williams on the outside to replace Cromartie, which is where he shined last season. He has a natural nose for the football, which was evident from his six interceptions and ten passes defensed. However, he is also an instinctive player who utilizes strong fundamentals and field awareness.
Against Miami on third down, Williams is playing off Jordan Cameron but properly squats at the first down marker, keeps his leverage and leaves a difficult window for Ryan Tannehill to attempt a pass into.
On another third down, this time against Allen Hurns and lined up in a press position, Williams is able show off his quick footwork, route recognition and ability to break on the football. It is impressive that Williams can effectively play both off and on his assigned man and has the versatility to match-up with a speedster like Hurns or a tight end with size like Cameron.
Teams were unable to pick on Williams when looking to throw down the field. He regularly does a good job of not getting spun around on double moves, mirroring the receiver and keeping himself in proper position with good hip flexibility. Whatever Williams lacks in straight line speed, he makes up for with quickness and proper usage of his steps.
Williams’ nose for the football was present when working both in man and zone on the outside. Against Brian Hartline, he again shows off his footwork and is able to position himself to jump a poor pass from Johnny Manziel. Against Jordan Cameron, he is playing off but is able to out battle the substantially larger Cameron for position to intercept the football.
Later in the season against Miami, the Jets were in a zone look with Williams playing off. He is able to read the route combination and jump Tannehill’s pass on the deep speed out by Kenny Stills.
Overall, Williams is a promising young player who will need to show he can handle a large bump in playing time. He was banged up throughout the second half of the season in a limited role so the main question about him starting next season, is can he stay healthy for 16 games while playing 85-95% of the defensive snaps? The skill set is there for Williams to thrive on the outside because of his ability to match-up with a multitude of types of receivers, nose for the football and physicality.
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com