Veteran cornerback Tramon Williams recently spoke about his role in mentoring younger teammates. Coming off one of his best seasons in years, here’s why his presence shouldn’t be underestimated.
The Green Bay Packers may have signed up for something they didn’t know they were getting – and not in a bad way. When Tramon Williams (re)signed with the team in March, general manager Brian Gutekunst may have thought he was merely acquiring a veteran depth piece. Tramon has made a name for himself (again) in Packers OTAs. Of course, the 35-year-old Williams played eight seasons for Green Bay from 2008-2014. Only two players intercepted more passes than Williams (27) during that time – Asante Samuel (29) and former teammate Charles Woodson (31).
However, former general manager Ted Thompson elected not to re-sign Tramon after his contract expired in 2014. Perhaps he just isn’t what he used to be… or is he?
“I said it walking off the field today, the biggest difference on the back-end is [number] ’38’. He is, as of right now, in my humble opinion, the best on that side of the ball,” Aaron Rodgers said of Williams. “You want your best players to be the best guys in the locker room, and there’s nobody better than Tramon. It’s great having him back.”
Rodgers isn’t the only one whose taken notice either. Defensive backs coach Joe Whitt Jr. has been mightily impressed with the veteran, saying, “The three practices he’s gone [to] he’s been really, really good…He’s still really quick – got his hands on a number of balls. I’ve been really pleased with the way he’s played.”
It wasn’t as if Williams had a disappointing season in 2017 either. He signed with the Arizona Cardinals mid-season and performed at one of the highest levels of his career.
In fact, Pro Football Focus rated Williams as the 9th best cornerback in the entire league last season. He also allowed a league-best 1.0 passer rating when deployed in man coverage. It should be noted throwing a pass at the ground warrants a 39.6 passer rating.
Williams will look to carry that success into 2018 under new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, whose scheme relies heavily on man coverage. Williams played under Pettine during a brief stint with the Cleveland Browns in which Pettine served as head coach.
But maybe Williams’ performance on the field isn’t the most important aspect of his game.
The leadership role Tramon has already brought to the locker room can’t, and shouldn’t, be overlooked. Green Bay enters the 2018 season with one of the youngest secondaries they’ve had in years. It could be argued mentoring the younger cornerbacks will be Williams’ greatest task. Josh Jackson, Jaire Alexander and Kevin King could all learn a thing or two from the former Pro Bowler.
It won’t be as difficult as one may think, however. Williams has offered plenty of praise for Mike Pettine’s defensive scheme, calling it ‘modern day‘ and ‘not overly-hard‘ to learn; perhaps a subtle ridiculing of former defensive coordinator Dom Caper’s scheme.
“The good thing about Pettine’s defense is it’s not overly-hard at all – you don’t have to think that much. Guys are really out there playing fast right away, and if you can get guys to play fast right away and just continue to get more reps, that’s what you want. You don’t want guys thinking when they’re on the field. You want guys to be playing, and I feel that’s what guys are doing right now.”
At the time, the signing of Tramon Williams looked to be a decent addition. He checked all the boxes: former player for the Packers, familiar with Pettine’s scheme, older veteran, etc. Now it makes even more sense.
Was this Gutekunst’s master plan all along? Whatever the case may be, Packers fans have much to be excited about at a position in dire need of guidance.