Buffalo Bills’ defensive back Aaron Williams has received quite a bit of criticism since being selected with the team’s second-round draft choice in the 2011 NFL draft. Whether it came from the hindsight of the stellar play of Colin Kaepernick (selected one pick after Williams), or his seemingly inconsistent play, many fans have chosen him as the scapegoat.
Not this year.
While battling through various nagging injuries, Williams has appeared in 20 games in his first two seasons. In his 16 starts, he’s made 65 tackles, one interception and forced two fumbles.
However, the new coaching staff believed it was in the best interest of Williams and the Bills if he were to make a switch to safety, a position many draft analysts assumed he would play when entering the league.
With Mike Pettine’s emphasis on not labeling safeties “free” or “strong,” instead using “right” or “left,” Williams has the physical tools necessary to be effective on both sides of the defense.
Williams has the size and athleticism necessary to compete with the more athletic tight ends the team will be facing, as well as the shifty slot receivers that are taking the NFL by storm.
With Williams’ experience at both cornerback and safety, the position switch gives him scheme-versatility which will allow him to see significant playing time. While there’s no doubt he’s struggled in his first two seasons, the coaching staff appears very optimistic about Williams’ quick adjustment.
While speaking to BuffaloBills.com’s Lead Journalist Chris Brown, Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine had this to say about Williams’ progression.
“Every day is a challenge for him as far as new concepts in the playbook. I think he’s done a real nice job buying in and really getting quickly to the graduate level details of it.”
“Being a safety is such a different world from being a corner. Now there are a lot of plays where he ends up locked on a guy and his corner instincts can take over. But it is a lot of learning and a lot of communication and I think he’s ahead of schedule of where we thought he would be. He’s flashed just things that we saw in him as far as being a safety.”
In OTA’s and minicamp, Williams racked up five interceptions, which is a testament to his ability to make plays when he’s able to see the whole field.
With more freedom allowed in Coach Pettine’s defense, especially at the safety position, his combination of size, strength and speed should allow him to develop into a solid all-around safety that can provide run support and blitz the quarterback.
It typically takes most NFL players until their third season before you can get a real feel for the type of player they are, and being that this is Williams’ third, it’s time for him to prove himself.