As the news broke yesterday that Saints #1 cornerback Delvin Breaux will miss an undisclosed amount of time when X-rays revealed a more serious injury then the one that he was previously believed to have been suffering; it became pretty evident by the day's end that for the 2nd consecutive season, the team will have a new player that will now will have to step up and fill that role.
This season, unless something drastic happens between now and September 11th at Minneapolis, it appears at least for the moment that the man who be filling that role is 3rd year cornerback P.J. Williams, the team's 3rd Round 2015 Draft choice out of Florida State.
While the Saints have a handful of other CB's -- veterans Sterling Moore and Damian Swann, 2nd year players Ken Crawley and De'Vante Harris, and rookie 2017 top draft pick Marshon Lattimore -- capable of stepping into the role, it would seem that Williams is the player that will fill Breaux's shoes in his absence (assuming Breaux returns at all, given the rumors that the Saints are reportedly seeking to trade him).
However, it must be important to note: in his 3rd year as a professional football player, Williams has played in exactly TWO NFL games that have actually counted in the standings.
He missed all of his rookie season in 2015 with a torn hamstring, and then of course there was last season in 2016; where in a road game in Week #2 of last season against the New York Giants, he suffered a concussion so severe that it forced him to miss the remaining 14 games of the regular season and saw him placed on injured reserve for a 2nd straight season.
The injury last year occurred when Williams was struck by two knees in his head and neck area on a 1st-quarter play, one from Giants tight end Larry Donnell and another from Saints linebacker Craig Robertson.
He was KNOCKED OUT COLD on the field, and players from both teams -- realizing what had taken place -- immediately waved the medical staff onto the field. It was actually a Giants trainer who tended to Williams first.
Williams subsequently then laid on the MetLife Stadium turf for approximately 5 minutes, before trainers strapped him to a backboard with his helmet still on, and rushed him to a local hospital in nearby New Jersey.
Afterwards in the post-game press conference, Saints head coach Sean Payton told reporters that Williams was completely unconscious for "a good portion" of the time he was on the field after suffering the injury.
The 24-year old's season was essentially over before it ever got a chance to start, and now almost a year removed from that fateful day Williams suddenly finds himself about to be thrust back into the fire of one of the NFL's toughest positions: the outside boundary cornerback position.
But the question must be asked:
Is he ready to take over?
My good friend and Canal Street Chronicles football film / NFL Draft analyst Walter "Reverend Deuce" Windham just yesterday released this video analysis (click PLAY right below) of Williams that he made for his "Who Dat Confessional" podcast program; and says that he believes Williams is ready to assume the role, but just needs more repetitions and game experience to grow into the role.
Windham notes that Williams has great athleticism and closing speed to play the outside boundary position, but needs to re-fine his coverage techniques with regard to things such as the reading and recognition of receiver routes, and knowing when to engage the opposing receiver off the line of scrimmage in press coverage.
Williams, the Saints' 3rd Round selection (#78 overall) in the 2015 NFL Draft, has all the unlimited potential in the world to become a very special player for New Orleans, but has to show that he himself can remain healthy given his past issues with staying on the field thus far in a Saints uniform.
As it is, the Ocala, Florida native was considered a virtual "steal" for the Saints, who were glad to still see him sitting on the Draft Board in the 3rd Round of that 2015 NFL Draft, which no doubt was due in part to his well-publicized pair of traffic arrests by the Tallahassee Police Department for a 2014 hit-and-run (of which he was eventually cleared) and a DUI (right before the Draft).
Before those personal issues, Williams was a 3-time All-ACC "lockdown" CB at Florida State, including a Defensive MVP performance in the 2014 BCS National Championship Game against Auburn -- where he recorded seven tackles and an interception while helping the Seminoles win the National Championship.
But Williams has shown that those days are behind him, and he appears more than ready to be a key contributor for the Saints defensive secondary in 2017; which after yesterday's breaking news regarding Breaux, now essentially doesn't leave Williams with much choice.
"I know I have to compete, stay healthy and just get better every day," Williams told reporters after practice 2 weeks ago "With me, I've had a hard two seasons, so I'm looking to work hard and make sure I'm at the top of my game and do what I can to stay healthy."
"There's definitely more to come," Williams said. "It's a little easier in college because you get to hit a guy all the way down the field. In the NFL, you also have to change up techniques.
"I was pretty much a press, man-to-man type of corner in college, but now I'm trying to work on my scoop step, getting a little ground and quick stabbing. In the NFL, it's a little different. Receivers are different, so you have to bring out a little technique."
And that technique is what Williams will now have to display, as he steps into the role that the team had been counting on Breaux to resume this year, the role that Breaux had filled since taking over the role himself from Keenan Lewis in 2015.
Williams will have to be ready to take over, because if there was ever a time for him to prove he's ready to be the player that the Saints were expecting to get when they drafted him, that time is NOW......