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P.J. Williams finds ways to fit for New Orleans Saints secondary

"Getting in there and getting some action really solidified that I know I can do it"


In real time, it likely was the equivalent of a blur.

One game, P.J. Williams was playing slot corner. Another game, he played slot and moved to outside corner. Another game, he started outside. And, yet another, he played snaps in the slot before transitioning to free safety.

In some unforgiving circumstances, playing three difficult positions to master, Williams provided a better-than-solid accounting of himself, and learned as much about his abilities as the rest of us did.

"Just being able to play those different positions, because I hadn't played safety (since high school), and just knowing that I could do it," said Williams, who agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the New Orleans Saints on April 2. "I always felt I could, but getting in there and getting some action really solidified the fact that I know I can do it, and whenever my number is called to be able to play a different position, that I can go in there and do it. Just using all the stuff coaches teach us in practice and being able to take it to the game on short notice, is definitely what I feel like I learned.

"For me, I feel like it was an eye-discipline thing. Being a defensive back, I feel like eye discipline is a real big thing for us. And so, when you go from playing corner or slot corner, where you're looking mainly at a couple of things, and then going back to free safety, seeing the field and not just looking at a couple of things, it's a lot different. I feel like throughout the game, I was able to get acclimated with my eye discipline to play safety."

Williams started eight of 14 games he played last season and had an interception, four passes defensed, a sack and 44 tackles in his fourth season. His mid-game switch to free safety cam against Tennessee in Week 16, though, due to injuries in the secondary, he'd been told he might have to play the position in the game and had been given some reps during practice.

In the game he started at cornerback, against Tampa Bay due to an injury to Marshon Lattimore, he primarily matched up against Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans and helped hold Evans (four catches for 69 yards) in check in a 34-17 victory.

Williams has four interceptions, 151 tackles, two sacks and 24 passes defensed in 47 career games, with 23 starts.

He said familiarity and comfort with the organization led to him wanting to return.

"Ultimately, I just feel like that's the best fit for me," said Williams, a third-round pick by New Orleans in 2015. "I've been there five years, this is about to be my sixth year. I love it there.

"You've got great coaches, it's a great situation. A great chance to compete for a championship, which is ultimately the goal. And just being comfortable. We've got a good group, I feel like they're doing a good job of keeping most of us together and also adding some good pieces. So I feel like ultimately, it was just the best decision for me."

Williams said he anticipates primarily being at nickel corner, which is where he beat out the competition last season and has become most effective in his NFL career. But now, he knows he can fill wherever needed.

"I feel I can play anywhere," he said. "I feel like anywhere on the field, that'll be good.

"They know my versatility, I talk to A.G. (secondary coach Aaron Glenn) all the time. So I wouldn't specify just one position. I'm going to come in there being ready to play them all, so wherever they need me, I'll be ready."

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