The New Orleans Saints avoided a significant offseason loss when they applied a franchise tag to their playmaking free safety Marcus Williams.
Williams remains in a defensive secondary with Pro Bowl cornerback Marshon Lattimore, versatile star defensive Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, defensive back PJ Williams, cornerback Patrick Robinson, and 13-year veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins.
New Orleans led the NFL with 18 interceptions in 2020 and ranked fifth in pass defense, their highest ranking in that category since 2013. However, the Saints had to cut ties with CB Janoris Jenkins in a salary-cap move. That loss created a massive hole in at cornerback.
The team used a 3rd round draft choice on Stanford cornerback Paulson Adebo, and Gardner-Johnson is expected to take on even more coverage responsibilities. One thing that makes Gardner-Johnson so unique is his versatility and ability to take on several defensive tasks.
All the Saints' 11 undrafted rookie signings face an uphill battle to make the roster. However, one player among that group could bring the same type of versatility that Gardner-Johnson adds to the secondary.
TRILL WILLIAMS, DEFENSIVE BACK (SYRACUSE)
Atrilleon "Trill" Williams, 21, was a first-team All-USA Today High School All-American at Archbishop Stepinac High School in New York. The defensive back ventured four hours north to attend Syracuse University. With the Orange, he had two interceptions, two passes defended, and had 2.5 tackles for loss among 31 total stops as a true freshman.
In 2019, Williams led his team with three forced fumbles and intercepted a pass while breaking up three passes and recording 38 tackles. Ankle surgery would end his 2020 season after just five games. In those five games, Williams had one interception (returning it for a touchdown) and five passes defended along with a tackle for loss.
Williams was often used all around the defensive backfield with Syracuse - yet, he struggled in one-on-one man matchups. Those struggles are especially evident against crossing routes. He doesn't have quick feet ideal for immediate change-of-direction and needs to refine his technique in press coverage.
When lined up at safety or off the ball, Williams tends to get caught looking into the backfield. That leaves him vulnerable to play-action fakes. As a tackler, he must improve his angles to the ball carrier, especially in the open field. His inexperience at safety can lead to poor positioning at times.
Williams’ major attribute is his versatility. He has terrific size, along with adequate speed and coverage ability. He’s a physical player that has underrated speed who uses his size well, and plays aggressively. Will engage receivers at the line of scrimmage; he needs to play with better leverage and balance.
Trill shows good route anticipation and plays diagnosis, especially when he’s off the ball. He has a terrific explosion out of his stance toward the ball carrier and delivers a pop as a tackler. Williams flips nicely out of his stance to run with wideouts down the field. Highly aggressive in short zones, always looking to create turnovers. His length and ball skills make him a potential playmaker at the next level.
Trill Williams projects as a coverage safety initially, with the ability to handle slot duties. He’s best when facing the ball and will have to show he can contribute on special teams early, but Williams has the versatility to be a major asset to a thin New Orleans secondary.