Tramon Williams is the third highest paid Packer behind Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews, but don’t tell that to all the Packers fans who have been disappointed in his play the past two years.
That said, Packers coaches and higher-ups are hoping the six-year veteran turns things around this season – in fact, they are doing everything in their power to make sure it happens.
Since suffering nerve damage in his shoulder in 2011, he hasn’t been the same player. He struggled through the injury in ’11 and wasn’t 100 percent in 2012. But he persevered … and showed improvement. And don’t even think about telling his position coach, Joe Whitt, that Williams’ play has degraded.
This past week, Whitt told reporters that he has all the confidence in the world in Williams’ abilities. In fact, he takes some of the hit on his players’ performance in ’11 and ’12. With a better understanding of Williams’ strengths, Whitt said the Packers’ strategy this year will be to play him off the line more because that’s how he plays best. Whitt said that when he’s off the receiver he sees the ball better.
“I’m going to take some of that (responsibility,) for the fact that we asked those guys (last) year for as much as possible to get up and press, which he can press,” Whitt said. “[But] he gets the ball better when he’s off. He makes more impactful plays from playing off. Sam [Shields] makes more impactful plays being pressed. So [Williams] played better because he can see the ball and go get it. Well if you go back to 2010, most of his impact plays came from being off.”
It was the Super Bowl season in 2010 when Williams was at his best. In all, he had nine interceptions (three in the playoffs), 20 passes defensed, three fumble recoveries, 48 tackles and seven assists.
Who can forget his 70-yard interception in the playoff game against Atlanta’s quarterback Matt Ryan? That was as electrifying as they get and was probably the play that helped send the Packers toward a World Championship.
Can Williams get back to that level? The Packers sure hope so and so do Williams’ teammates. Last year the team awarded him the Ed Block Courage Award, which is given to the player on all 32 teams who best exemplifies the “commitments to the principles of sportsmanship and courage.”
While Whitt has said that every position in the defensive backfield will be up for grabs come Training Camp, he also feels that Williams has as good of a shot at being the starter on opening day as any of the players vying for minutes. But Sam Shields, Casey Hayward and Davon House are all quality players and could be starters.
Here’s Whitt again on Williams:
“When [Williams] is allowed to do what he does best, he’s pretty good, and that’s just what it is. And so I know some people are going to say, ‘(Whitt) is protecting his players.’ No, that’s just what it is because after the season I went back and watched every play, over 1,200 plays. The guy can play, and he played physical, too. Let me clear that up too.
“You go back and watch the games. Now, did he miss the tackle on [Peterson] from Minnesota? Yeah, but he went up there and hit it. We’re going to miss some tackles. We’re not going to be 100 percent on [running] backs. I’m not going to get into every single play, but he’s going to play fine this year.”
So as we inch toward Training Camp, it’s clear that Williams will get every opportunity to be the man at one of the starting corners. While the Packers have shown their commitment with Williams’ contract, they seem confident that he will earn every dollar of that commitment.
Starting in July we will find out.