An Unexpected Player Is Getting First-Team Reps

Aug 29, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Joejuan Williams (33) before the game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports.

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August 29, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New England Patriots cornerback JoJuan Williams (33) prior to the game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports.

Players compete in a battle for position until the early months of the season. This is an annual common practice in the NFL. The same thing happens in the Vikings organization. New players, especially beginners, have to actively beat existing starters, and many players seek to replace departed players.

An unexpected player gaining first-team rep

August 12, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots cornerback JoJuan Williams (33) runs the ball after intercepting a pass against the Washington Football Team during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports.

Four cornerbacks departed from the franchise after the group’s poor season. The defenders could not cover the receivers, who showed up when the offense was up and down weekly. Mack Jones and Mike White had field days against the purple team and a defense coordinated by Ed Dontel.

Another good example is New York Giants receiver Isaiah Hodgins. He had 392 receiving yards in the regular season. The most receiving yards he had in a game apart from two contests against the Vikings was 44. Against the Vikings, Hodgins recorded 89 and 105 yards. Only the Tennessee Titans allowed more passing yards in the 2022 campaign than Vikes.

Patrick Peterson and Chandan Sullivan joined the Steelers, Duke Shelley the Raiders, and Cameron Dentzler was released from the Commanders days earlier after the Vikings waived him in March. The Vikings should be excited about the change, given the devastating numbers.

The departure of four starters last season left a void at cornerback. One of those spots will be filled by Byron Murphy, who is the team’s top free-agent addition after spending four years with the Cardinals. The second starting CB job is vacant, and there are few contenders.

October 31, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; New England Patriots cornerback JoJuan Williams (33) reacts after the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Chargers 27–24. Mandatory credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Akyleb Evans and Andrew Booth, both 2022 rookies, were expected to compete with 2023 rookie Mekhi Blackmon for CB duty, but another free agent acquisition is also in the mix. when the vikings signed Joe Juan Williams A few weeks before the draft, he was seen as a depth piece and special teamer as a replacement for Chris Boyes, who might not make the 53-man roster.

The theme so far at OTAs has been Murphy finding a spot with the first-team defense and Evans and Williams rotating at second, Booth getting some reps in nickel formations when three cornerbacks are on the field at the same time. Are. The top candidate for the nickel CB job is Jay Ward, but rookies always start behind veterans on the depth chart.

Williams was a 2019 second-round pick of the New England Patriots, but started only one game during his four-year tenure with the Patriots. The 6’3″ cornerback appeared in 36 games under Bill Belichick’s operation and was on the ground for 337 with 505 snaps on defense and special teams. A shoulder injury sustained in August caused him to miss the 2022 season, his fourth, on injured reserve. Neither the Patriots nor anyone else signed the free agent for roughly four weeks.

October 31, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores looks on during the second half against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports.

It’s notable that defensive coordinator Brian Flores coached in New England for nearly a decade and left just before Williams arrived. However, he has experience in the scheme of things like Flores, so he may have an advantage over the youngsters who are all learning a new defense.

It will be a fascinating story if Williams can end up living up to a second-round draft pedigree. The battle for the position will continue through training camp and the pre-season in August.


Janik Ekardt is a football fan who loves numbers and statistics. The Vikings became his favorite team, despite the quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking football encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and classic rock is his musical genre of choice. If you like Vikings, follow them on Twitter: @JanikEckardt

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