Joejuan Williams didn't play much as a rookie in the 2019 NFL season, but one of his teammates is confident he'll be ready when the opportunity arrives.
The New England Patriots selected Williams out of Vanderbilt in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. The 22-year-old cornerback played in nine regular season games for the Patriots in his rookie campaign, and he played more snaps on special teams (84) than he did on defense (80).
Download the MyTeams app for the latest Patriots news and analysis
Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty liked what he saw from Williams last season despite his limited playing time. In a video conference call with reporters Wednesday, McCourty explained how Williams' compete level was a huge factor in his improvement during the 2019 campaign.
"He loves to compete," McCourty said. "I think that’s something that you need. Obviously, at our position, when you’re in the back end, any mistake can be a 70-yard touchdown or a game-changing play, so I think you’ve got to have guys that are willing to go out there every single day and compete your butts off and get better. That’s what he did last year. As a rookie, he came in, he was willing to learn, he was willing to listen, and I felt like every day when we went out there on the practice field, he got better.
"I think not only for him being a rookie, but for all of us as a team, that’s what the process is about. Whether you’re in year one or you’re in year 12, every day you’ve got to show up with a willingness to compete and to prove that you belong there and a willingness to get better and listen to coaching. I think whether it’s Joejuan, whether it was D’Angelo (Ross) before he got here, Malik (Gant), all of those young guys came in and they were willing to listen to the older guys, listen to the coaches and really do everything that was asked of them on a daily basis to make sure they were making the necessary movements forward to get better as a football player."
Did Williams prove he belonged? McCourty said he did, but not before getting in a friendly jab at Vanderbilt.
"I mean, he went to Vanderbilt, so that’s a little bit of a knock on him. In the SEC, they’re one of the weaker schools, but other than that, yeah, he definitely did."
One way for Williams to play more snaps in 2020 is by learning to play safety. The ability to fill in at cornerback and safety would provide the Patriots defense with valuable versatility, and we know Patriots head coach Bill Belichick very much values players who excel at multiple positions.
The Patriots have tons of depth and loads of talent in their secondary -- highlighted by reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year award winner Stephon Gilmore -- but that doesn't mean Williams won't fill a key role for that group next season, especially if he's able to play both cornerback and safety.