Brandon Williams is a former third-round pick of the Cardinals, but for the majority of training camp he was a forgotten man.
The fourth-year cornerback was on the physically-unable-to-participate list until a week ago with a back injury and seemed to have an uphill climb to make the 53-man roster. However, the longterm absences of starting cornerbacks Patrick Peterson (suspension) and Robert Alford (leg) have thrust Williams back into that mix.
“There’s obviously spots to be had,” coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “He’s got to go take them. He’s athletic. He did a great job on special teams last year. He missed some time so he’s trying to catch up on that learning curve, but, yeah, I would say there’s a great opportunity for him.”
Tramaine Brock, Byron Murphy and Chris Jones are projected to be the top three cornerbacks in the regular season opener. The Cardinals could always add a player in the coming weeks, but if they don’t, Williams seems as good a candidate as any to be the fourth cornerback.
While he brings special teams value, Williams has never developed into a dependable NFL cornerback. He was an effective gunner last season but didn’t see the field on defense.
Even though this is a new coaching staff, Williams isn’t concentrating on proving himself.
“It’s not so much about showing anybody anything, it’s about doing what I know I can do,” Williams said. “Honing in on my technique, honing in on the defense, honing in within myself. I know if I do that, everything will be straight.”
Williams is expected to benefit from a return to the press coverage scheme favored by defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. It is a better fit for Williams’ skillset than zone coverage.
“I believe the system is really tailored to his athletic ability,” said Peterson, who has mentored Williams for several years. “I know he can play. He knows he can play. We’ve got a new coaching staff, so now he has to go out there and prove it to the coaching staff that they can trust him, and show he can be consistent.”
TRAINING CAMP WRAPS UP
The Cardinals had their final training camp practice on Sunday morning. It was Kingsbury’s first go-round at State Farm Stadium and he was pleased with the way everything was executed.
“It’s a great setup,” Kingsbury said. “I think (team president) Michael (Bidwill) has really set the bar high, as far as easy to use and functionality, getting around. I thought our players handled themselves well.”
David Johnson appreciated the schedule set by Kingsbury. The star running back said he feels fresher now than in any past training camp.
“Body feels great, mind feels great,” Johnson said. “Kliff has done a great job of keeping us relaxed and when we have our down time, guys are making sure they do everything they can to keep their body fresh."
While camp served its purpose, the players and coaches seem ready to return to the Dignity Health Arizona Cardinals Training Center as the regular season approaches.
“I think we’re all anxious to get into a routine,” Kingsbury said.
Kingsbury was asked which players stood out the most to him in camp. The first name off his tongue was rookie defensive end Zach Allen, the team’s third-round pick.
“He continues to show up,” Kingsbury said. “From where he started in the spring to now, he’s come a long way. We’re going to be counting on him there inside.”
Kingsbury was also impressed by rookie receiver KeeSeason Johnson and second-year running back Chase Edmonds.
“KeeSean Johnson continues to make a push for a young guy,” Kingsbury said. “I really like what I’ve seen there. And Chase Edmonds at running back, I kind of hit on it in the spring, but just kind of a do-it-all guy, whether it’s special teams, or catching the ball out of the backfield or running the football. He can kind of do it all.”
Images from Saturday's penultimate work at State Farm Stadium