Can Marcus Williams excel as a starter?


As the New York Jets prepare for OTAs and eventually training camp, cornerback Marcus Williams has a golden opportunity to be a starter this upcoming season.

Early into the offseason, the New York Jets released Antonio Cromartie. This move was one that had to be made, as it freed up $8M in cap space. Without Cromartie heading into the 2016 season, the Jets are expecting big things from third year cornerback Marcus Williams.

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Williams, an undrafted free agent, was picked up off the street during the 2014 season when the Jets were decimated at cornerback. The Jets brought him in as depth but he quickly proved he had what it took to play in the NFL.

In limited 2014 action, Williams posted 36 tackles, seven passes defended and an interception. He was the lone bright spot in the Jets’ defensive secondary, which was truly awful in 2014. Heading into 2015, Marcus had to fight his way onto the roster. Marcus easily made the team, passing high draft picks of the previous regime in Dee Milliner and Dexter McDougle, as well as 2014 starter Darrin Walls.

Marcus excelled in man coverage on the outside. He recorded an astounding six interceptions, to go along with 10 passes defended. Marcus displayed tremendous technique in man coverage and zone coverage on the outside. While he had tremendous success on the outside, he wasn’t nearly as successful at safety and in the slot.

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Williams in not known for his tackling, and it showed when he was forced to play strong safety in place of Calvin Pryor.

Williams showed that he was capable of starting opposite Darrelle Revis in a league where a lot of teams have two 1,000 yard receivers on their rosters.

Sure, there are other corners on the Jets’ roster that Williams will have to fight off to become the starter at cornerback this season.

Defensive back Buster Skrine is coming off of a year where he only intercepted one pass and was picked on at times.

Skrine is an is an ideal slot corner because of his size (or lack thereof) and his impressive quickness.

Skrine is flagged more than he should be, which wouldn’t bode well for him if he was lining up outside against receivers that are 6’3 and 6’4. All Milliner has done in the NFL is play well for the last quarter on the season in 2013. He essentially hasn’t played at all since then. Milliner is a big wildcard and has a long way to go in the eyes of this new coaching staff.

In the end, Williams has the best chance to do what head coach Todd Bowles needs to run his defense effectively. He gives them a feisty, ball-hawking cornerback that excels on the boundary. Since Bowles blitzes so often, he needs his corners to win one-on-one match-ups and have serious ball skills.

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Cornerbacks in this scheme will be matched up man-to-man with no safety help most of the time. With Williams, Bowles won’t think twice about dialing up pressure. Williams, this upcoming season, has an excellent chance to prove to the Jets and the rest of the league that he is a starting cornerback in this league. He undoubtedly will and besides, he’s been proving everyone wrong ever since he went undrafted out of North Dakota State.