Williams filled in at cornerback last year
When Jarren Williams entered the NFL, it seemed unlikely that he would have a legitimate shot at making the New York Giants’ roster two years later. He’s slightly undersized. Undrafted. Went to a college that has one winning season since 2017.
Yet Williams, following a position change to safety, could have the tools to turn his career around. Is he a part of the Giants’ plans this year? Let’s find out as we continue our player-by-player profiles of New York’s 90-man roster.
Experience: 2 years
Contract: One-year, $825,000 deal | 2022 Cap hit: $825,000
The Arizona Cardinals signed Williams as an undrafted free agent in 2020 following a short career at Albany. He was waived just three months later.
The Giants quickly signed Williams, and he spent most of the next two seasons on their practice squad. He barely saw the field in 2020 but appeared in six games last year with two starts. He logged 18 tackles, 14 of them unassisted, and allowed a 46.3 passer rating when targeted.
So far this spring, Williams has taken reps at safety throughout the offseason program at the behest of defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson.
“I don’t think it’s disrespect at all,’’ Williams told the New York Post about his position change. “It’s a great opportunity. I’m really excited, gonna keep learning the position, take the teaching, take the coaching and I think it’s gonna be good for me, for real.’’
Even though the Giants are thin at cornerback, Williams’ position change gives him a better chance at making the 53-man roster. There are no proven options at safety behind projected starters Xavier McKinney and Julian Love. Most of Henry Black’s experience is on special teams, and fourth-rounder Dane Belton might not make an impact right away.
Williams has displayed a physicality beyond his small size, and he thinks that will help him out as a tackler.
“I got a physical nastiness to me and there’s power,’’ Williams told the Post. “[Henderson] has high expectations of me when I tackle now and I’m glad because I put it on tape that I’ll come down and hit a running back and I have no fear and I truly don’t. I really don’t.’’
Here’s what BBV’s Nick Falato had to say in a film analysis last month:
“Williams has a real shot at earning snaps with the current state of the Giants’ secondary. I haven’t seen him play safety, but Martindale successfully converted cornerbacks in the past to play full-time safety; last year, the Ravens selected Brandon Stephans in the third round out of SMU. Stephans transitioned to safety and played 742 snaps, starting 11 games at FS and SS.
“Williams could be the Stephans of last season; they are similar in size, and both have the athletic ability and intelligence to be flexible.
“In terms of what we saw in Williams’ 2021 film, he can play inside and outside with man coverage athletic ability, and zone awareness that allows him to maximize the defense’s versatility. He’s not the most physical or imposing; or the longest player, but he understands his assignment and does a solid job executing his role, despite his lack of experience and pedigree.”
It’s possible that Williams still needs some time on the practice squad to adapt to his new position, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see him on the Week 1 roster, either.