The New York Giants, having lost DeAndre Baker (Commissioner’s Exempt List) and Sam Beal (opt out) will take cornerback help from anywhere they can get it. Right now, it looks like that help might come from an undrafted free agent who played collegiately in the FCS and didn’t join the team until about three weeks ago.
Jarren Williams, 23, is a pretty unlikely candidate for a big role on the Giants’ defense, but the former UAlbany Great Dane is certainly getting a long look as a boundary corner. In recent practices, Williams has often rotated in with James Bradberry and Corey Ballentine.
That’s pretty heady stuff for a kid who played collegiately at FCS schools UAlbany and St. Francis (Pa.) didn’t join the Giants until Aug. 2. Williams originally signed with the Arizona Cardinals after the draft, but was dropped by the Cardinals when they trimmed to an 80-man roster.
The Giants added him to their roster, and he suddenly finds himself with an opportunity.
Of course, the NFL will find you when you can a 4.39 40-yard dash, as Williams did after arriving on the UAlbany campus last July as a grad transfer.
“We had played against him, we knew he was a pretty good athlete. What we didn’t know was how fast he was,” UAlbany coach Greg Gattuso told Big Blue View. “He’s really a physically developed kid who can really run. The NFL craves those type of athletes. Everybody does.”
Gattuso’s scouting report on Williams, who is 5-foot-10, 187 pounds, goes like this:
“The guy can really run. He’s put together. He’s a strong guy. I wouldn’t call him a physical corner, but he can play and he’s fast and I think when he starts getting advanced teaching — if he can stick long enough to keep getting the coaching he needs he’s got a lot of talent and I think he could be a good player.
“He can run with the guys at that level, it’s just going to be a matter of experience in my mind.”
Undrafted free agents often need a break in order to have a real chance to stick in the NFL, and this could be a case of right place, right time for Williams.
Giants coach Joe Judge has been adamant that draft status and experience will not sway roster decisions. He reiterated that point on Monday.
“Every year that I have been a part of the National Football League we’ve had some kind of undrafted player make our 53 roster and be a contributing factor to our team. I come from a school of thought of it doesn’t matter how you got there, it matters what you do when you get there,” Judge said. “It’s our jobs as coaches to evaluate after every practice and create situations where they [players] can demonstrate the ability to play in those situations. Everybody is starting at ground zero with us. We’re allowing them every day to compete and demonstrate their value and production.”
Right now, the Giants have an uncertain picture at boundary corner behind Bradberry and Ballentine. Seventh-round pick Chris Williamson appears to be working at safety. Same with Julian Love and Montre Hartage. Fourth-round pick Darnay Holmes has been primarily in the slot.
That leaves Williams, Dravon Askew-Henry, and rookies Prince Smith and Christian Angulo as the primary competitors for backup roles on the outside.
While things can obviously change, the distribution of practice reps would seem to indicate that Williams is leading that competition.
“He’s a guy who takes coaching points from the classroom to the field. He’s very receptive, he plays with a good demeanor,” Judge said. “He’s got a good body frame on him. He’s almost built a little bit more like a safety at times than a corner. He factors into different positions in the kicking game for you. I like the way he comes out every day. [Defensive backs coach] Jerome [Henderson] gets on him pretty hard. He responds the right way and he’s shown improvement.”
Will he show the Giants enough to end up as part of their 53-man roster? All we know for sure right now is that there is a surprising opportunity in front of him.