The talk all offseason was about the Chargers boasting a pair of Pro Bowl cornerbacks in Jason Verrett and Casey Hayward.
Unfortunately, the Bolts lost Verrett after the first week of the season when he underwent surgery once again on his ACL.
The team was confident Trevor Williams would come in and hold down the fort. After all, they’ve continuously used terms like “solid” and “reliable” to describe the second-year cornerback’s play.
Having flown under the radar since joining the Bolts as an undrafted free agent in 2016, Williams is finally getting his proper due. Last week in Oakland, he recorded his first career interception while being tasked with shadowing Michael Crabtree throughout the day. His biggest play though came on the first snap of the fourth quarter on 4th-and-2, when he jammed Crabtree at the line of scrimmage, disrupting the Raiders’ rhythm and forcing the incompletion.
“He has exceeded expectations,” Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley said. “You try not to have any perceptions about guys, what they can and can’t do, but he’s a guy the coaching staff has built a great deal of confidence in. He’s one of those guys where you say, ‘Alright, we don’t worry about that.’”
“Being my first year last year, it took while for me to get used to the speed of the game,” Williams said, crediting Bradley for helping take his game to a new level. “In high school and college, year two was always a better year for me. Coach Gus, he does a great job game planning, calling up schemes, and putting us in better position.”
So, what’s makes the 5-11, 191-pound cornerback so effective?
“As far as technique, he’s really bought into it,” Bradley explained. “Every play in practice, every rep he gets in a game, you really see him try to stay true to it. He’s doing a really good job. I’ve used the word solid (before, but) he has become better than solid for us. He is playing very well for us.”
Williams landed on the team’s practice squad to open the 2016 campaign following an impressive training camp and preseason. He was promoted to the active roster prior to Week 5, but saw his first true action on defense two weeks later. It just so happened he was tasked with defending the Atlanta Falcons’ Julio Jones, and impressed teammates and coaches alike with his cool, calm demeanor. He’d go on to appear in 12 contests as a rookie with five starts, finishing with 29 tackles and five passes defensed.
Expected to play an integral role this season as the team’s nickel corner, the Penn State product was pressed into a more prominent role following Verrett’s season ending surgery. Now entrenched as the team’s starting cornerback, he’s totaled 22 tackles, six passes defensed and one pick.
It’s been a long journey for the cornerback, who has gone from afterthought to invaluable in the course of a year.
“I think about it every day,” he admitted. “I came in here undrafted with a chip on my shoulder. It’s been extra motivation for me ever since. I just try to do my job, and help these guys.”
As Williams builds a reputation around the league, Bradley warned he can’t afford to buy into the hype.
“I think the big thing for him is, can he stay true to it? Because sometimes what can happen with corners is, they do things well, and then they want to start big-play hunting. They get away from it to try to make a play now. If he stays true to it, the plays will come, and when he gets his opportunity, he’ll make them.”