Joejuan Williams hadn’t played safety since his high school days, but the New England Patriots apparently still felt confident in his abilities to move to the position from his natural spot at cornerback: in the preseason finale against the New York Giants, Williams saw considerable action at the position. And while a permanent switch does not appear to be on the table, being able to play two positions certainly helps the rookie’s standing.
One of the standout performers during New England’s fourth exhibition contest, the second-round draft selection played all 90 of his team’s defensive snaps. He made the most out of his opportunity, showing his trademark physicality and not looking out of position no matter where he actually was asked to line up. Williams, of course, know quite well that a certain level of versatility can only increase his overall value to the Patriots.
“It just shows how valuable you are to the team, and that’s one thing that I wanted to show to the team is how valuable I am,” the 21-year-old told reporters in the locker room after New England’s 31-29 loss on Thursday night. “I want to show this team that wherever they need me to play at, I feel like I can fill that role for them. I’d give my best and I’ll do my best to take on that challenge.”
“It’s exciting, really. Once they told me that I was going to play safety, I tried my best to take full advantage and take on that challenge. It’s just showing the team how valuable I am, basically,” continued the Vanderbilt product. “Going to play safety this week was definitely exciting, definitely exciting to see the whole field, definitely exciting to go out there and just compete at a new position. It’s something new, something fun. Gets your blood running.”
Getting looks at different positions should indeed be seen as a positive development for Williams for two reasons. One, it might allow him to carve out playing time on one of the deepest secondaries in all of football. And two, it shows that his progression is continuing in encouraging fashion — especially when compared to how his early summer looked like; one filled with inconsistencies and moments made for teaching.
Williams, however, was never worried about any potential start to his Patriots tenure as he made sure on Thursday: “This whole summer it’s just been a learning process, it’s been a learning curve. I don’t feel like a lot of people say, ‘he has had a slow start’ or something like that. At the end of the day you just learn. I’m a rookie, I’m just trying to soak up everything and learn from the vets. And once I make a mistake, make sure it doesn’t happen a second time around.”
“At the end of the day it’s all about the learning curve, and I’m just trying to be — this is a marathon, not a sprint — the best player that I can be,” Williams said. The game against New York may not have been peak Joejuan Williams yet, but it certainly showed a rookie whose arrow is pointing up and who could play a notable role for the Patriots in 2019.