The transition from the college game to the pro level is a tough task for any rookie.
Asking a first-year player to also change positions makes for an even more difficult transition, but so far, sixth-round draft choice
“So far so good,” he said dripping with sweat after a recent practice. “I’m learning on the go and getting as many reps as I can. I’m learning as fast as I can and I’m feeling good. ”
Williams was a three-time All-Sun Belt Conference selection during his time as a defensive end with the Panthers. Over his career, he finished second in school history in career sacks (18), yards lost (155), tackles for loss (45.5) and tackle for loss yards (224). As a senior captain in 2012, he recorded 6.5 sacks, 14.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles.
Clearly, Williams has had success as a defensive end but it is as an outside linebacker that he will be most effective in the NFL. That transition isn’t easy, but Williams is doing everything necessary and then some in order to be successful.
“It’s been a work in progress,” he said. “But I’ve been working at it since January, so I’m starting to get the gist of things and everything. But the more I work at it, the better I get.”
Part of the reason he’s heartened by his progress is the encouragement he’s received from his fellow outside linebackers.
“I’ve gotten a lot of support from the older guys like Double J (
When Tom Telesco tabbed him with the 179th overall pick, the general manager raved about his nonstop motor, over-all energy and pass rush ability. Over the first two weeks of training camp, Williams has shown a knack for exactly that, and believes he can help in that capacity beginning in Week One.
“I think the strongest part of my game right now is my pass rush because I can use a lot of the tools I already know from being a defensive end,” he said. “As soon as I stepped on the field and did my first rep getting after the quarterback I knew I belonged. I’m going to always play hard and give effort. And if it’s good, it’s good and if it’s not, it won’t be. But I’ll always bring that energy and confidence.”
While he’s confident in his ability to track down the quarterback, he knows he has more to learn in regards to other aspects of the passing game.
“I’ve still got to work on my drops in coverage,” he said. “I need to learn how to get proper depth and stuff like that. But I’m working at it. I’m focusing in and working on my technique. Everything the coaches tell me I’m jotting down and working on. So I’ve got to key in and take proper steps.”
Williams feels he is progressing well in that department, and a big reason is due to the coaching staff.
“I’ve got great coaches on defense in (defensive coordinator John Pagano and linebackers coach Joe Barry),” he said. “They teach you in a way that you’re able to understand the ins and outs of the defense. They hold you accountable and they teach you that way. I believe we have the ability to be one of the best in the NFL. I really feel that way. Effort is something you can’t teach, but as long as we give good effort and listen to the coaches there’s no telling how good we can be.”
You can watch Williams and the defense in action this Thursday at Qualcomm Stadium in the preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks. Click here for tickets.
Also, if you are attending the game, please review the new NFL public safety policy limiting the size and type of bags that may be brought into the stadium.