Joejuan Williams isn't exactly in an ideal situation.

The 22-year-old was buried behind Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones and J.C. Jackson last year in the Patriots' loaded cornerback group. He appeared in just nine of New England's 16 games and played 10 or more defensive snaps in just three of those contests despite the team taking him 45th overall in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Gilmore, McCourty, Jones and Jackson all are back in 2020, meaning Williams must elevate his game this season -- or try his hand at safety, which ESPN's Mike Reiss reported as a possibility for the second-year pro.

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Some players (especially second-round picks) might balk at a position change, but the Vanderbilt product appears open to whatever helps him stick around.

"I want to be in the league for the long haul," Williams told's Paul Perillo. " ... Of course you want to challenge and compete for time. Steph and the McCourtys … learning from those guys standing side by side has been a blessing.

"As a competitor you want to get out there and play but also you want to sit back and put your team in the best position. If my role is to learn then that is my role."

Williams also sees a potential benefit in taking snaps at safety, a transition Devin McCourty made early in his Patriots career after starting out as a cornerback.


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"It will only make me more valuable and a better player overall for my team if I'm lined up at cornerback and I know what the safety's assignment is," Williams said. 

"Knowing the whole defense conceptually makes everything better. You know what other teammates are supposed to be doing. That helps you play quicker and make more plays because you know where your help is supposed to be."

Williams would have plenty of competition at safety, too, as top draft pick Kyle Dugger and free-agent signing Adrian Phillips join McCourty, Patrick Chung and Terrence Brooks in another deep group.

But head coach Bill Belichick values intelligent, versatile defenders, so if Williams can master the playbook as both a cornerback and a safety, he'll greatly increase his chances of making an impact in 2020.