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John DeShazier: Saints rookie Marcus Willams adjusting just fine

Posted Aug 3, 2017

Second-round pick from Utah has been making plays in practice

One practice, it was a quick-reflex pick, with Marcus Williams collecting a tipped pass and taking the theft in the opposite direction it was intended.

The next workout, it was a rangy center fielder’s play at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center, with Williams locking in on a Drew Brees pass intended for Willie Snead IV down the right sideline, and swooping in from right to left for the pick in time to tap both cleats on the grass before stepping out of bounds.

“It’s like a dream come true,” Williams said Thursday. “Going against one of the great quarterbacks, just coming in and being able to adjust, is something that you always look forward to doing as a rookie. So it’s just about adjusting. I feel like I need to continue to be consistent in doing what I do.”

Williams, the New Orleans Saints’ second-round draft pick (No. 42 overall) this season, seems to be adjusting just fine as a 20-year-old who was gearing up to play his third and final season at Utah a year ago today. He’s getting practice reps with the starters and backups, but the cause for optimism is because of what he’s doing, rather than whom he’s doing it alongside.

Namely, he’s flashing the same play-making ability that drove up his draft stock, the play-making ability that helped him intercept 10 passes, break up eight and total 130 tackles in his final two college seasons.

Saints Coach Sean Payton took note of Williams’ interception of Brees and his play against the Saints’ offensive starters.

“If you looked at his college numbers, he was probably the most productive safety in regards to turnover production,” Payton said. “I was encouraged. It was a rep versus the ones, and it’s one of the things he does well – track and locate. He’s very smart, and we’ve just got to keep giving him those reps.

“He knows what he is doing very early on, so his attention to detail is good. Obviously, as a rookie, there is a lot he has to pick up and improve on, but that was an encouraging play.”

It was the kind of play the Saints have been seeking more of the last several seasons. New Orleans totaled 12 interceptions in 2014, nine in ’15 and nine last season, with no player accumulating more than three in any of those seasons.

Williams singularly won’t be expected to be responsible for an increase in forced turnovers, but he hopes to be a vital part of the process.

“I feel like that’s what I hold myself accountable to do, is go get the ball,” he said. “Since I was in high school and college, that’s what I always practiced doing, going and get the ball – being in position, watch enough film and being in my playbook in order to put myself in positon to make those plays.”

He said he was a receiver in high school until his senior year. When pressed into duty to play safety because of an injured teammate, Williams said he intercepted three passes in his first game at the position, received a scholarship offer from San Diego State the next day – he hadn’t received any offers prior to that – and found the position that he’d stick with for his future.

Now that he has reached the NFL, the quest of becoming even better is one that he attacks daily.

“It’s slowing down quite a bit, just with the help from all the safeties,” he said. “Everybody – players, all the coaches – they’re all playing a part in helping me learn the plays and be in a good position to make plays. It’s all about that.

“I get the questions in when I feel I need to. I’m not shy to ask a question or anything like that. I’m pretty much picking up the defense pretty well so whenever I have a question I just ask, and I get an answer.”

Now, he’s tasked with being one of the answers in the Saints’ secondary. So far, he appears to be answering many of the questions.

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