Joejuan Williams puts optimistic spin on uncertain role with Patriots

Joejuan Williams puts optimistic spin on uncertain role with Patriots

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.

NFL Rumors: Patriots showing interest in ex-Jets TE Jordan Leggett

NFL Rumors: Patriots showing interest in ex-Jets TE Jordan Leggett

The New England Patriots' search for tight end help presses on.

The Patriots are "showing interest" in former New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Jordan Leggett, CLNS Media's Evan Lazar reported Friday.

The 25-year-old Clemson product doesn't boast much NFL experience: He missed his entire rookie season with the New York Jets in 2017 after injuring his knee in the preseason and spent the 2019 campaign on the Bucs' practice squad.

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Leggett played in 15 games for the Jets in 2018, though, catching 14 passes for 114 yards and one touchdown as a "move" tight end. He was waived by the Bucs last Thursday and has been training in the Tampa area since then, per Lazar.

Leggett isn't exactly a game-changer, but the Patriots need tight end depth after Matt LaCosse opted out of the 2020 season. Ryan Izzo is the only New England tight end with NFL experience ahead of rookies Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene.

The Patriots reportedly are considering 35-year-old tight end Delanie Walker in free agency, as well. Leggett would be a much younger (and cheaper) option, however, so it appears New England is still exploring the market as training camp ramps up.

Jerod Mayo was 'shocked' by Dont'a Hightower, Patrick Chung opt-outs

Jerod Mayo was 'shocked' by Dont'a Hightower, Patrick Chung opt-outs

When he heard the news that Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung were opting out of the 2020 season, Jerod Mayo had the same reaction most people did. 

"I was shocked, disappointed -- a bunch of emotions went through my head initially," said Mayo, who played alongside and is friends with both men.

"Then I took a step back and looked at each situation. These are personal decisions. Obviously, Hightower took a step back and examined his personal situation and so did Chung and I totally respect the decision. I know coach (Bill Belichick) already talked about it.”

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Speaking on a video conference call Friday morning, the Patriots inside linebackers coach said the leadership and play of both players will be missed but added that, “From a football standpoint, you just gotta treat it like an injury.”

“We’ve always had that 'next man up' mentality and that’s how we’re approaching it going forward,” said Mayo. “With that said, even though those guys have opted out, those guys will still continue to mentor some of the younger guys. Guys who haven’t played as much ball.

"And I can totally appreciate it. Hightower is one of the smartest football players I’ve ever been around and so is Chung. Those guys are not here with us this year on the field but they are still around.”

Mayo saluted the work the organization has done in getting the facility prepared for dealing with football during a pandemic. 

“The staff has done a fantastic job,” he said. “One thing I’ve always respected about this organization is they don’t just try to solve these complex problems in-house, they go out and ask other people what they’re doing. 

“When I walk around the building, I feel safe and I think the players do, as well,” Mayo continued. “I think they’ve done a fantastic job. Our operations people deserve a shout-out.

"This is such a fluid situation. Things change, whether it’s the CDC changing guidelines or any of that stuff. It changes so much and those guys have done a great job around the building so guys feel safe and coaches feel safe.”

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