By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Joejuan Williams played cornerback at Vanderbilt, and the Patriots drafted him as such. Or did they?
Williams is an uncommonly big-bodied defensive back who seemingly had a chance to develop into a perimeter defender who can go toe-to-toe with tall, athletic outside receivers. But perhaps the Patriots are preparing him to cover tight ends, instead. As reported by the NFL Network’s Mike Giardi on Thursday, Williams has been attending meetings with the safeties in addition to working with them in individual drills during practice.
At 6-foot-3 and 212 pounds, Williams certainly has the frame of a big receiver. But his size and length could work well against the Travis Kelces of the world. He got looks in the box during the preseason in his rookie year, so it’s possible that this has been the plan for longer than just the past month.
It could simply be a move out of necessity. Patrick Chung has opted out of the season and free-agent signing Adrian Phillips just recently made it onto the field for the first time. On top of that, it would be challenging to fit Williams into the lineup at cornerback at all with Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, J.C. Jackson, and Jonathan Jones locked in and crowding the depth chart.
A move to safety is probably the only way we’d get to see Williams on defense, so it’s a change that makes sense on the surface. The hope is that he begins to contribute this season, but the concern is that the learning curve of a position change may be too steep for his impact to be felt that soon.
Here are some other leftover stories that you may have missed this week…
Kyle Dugger and the promise of instincts
Everyone can see the speed and athleticism of Patriots rookie second-round pick Kyle Dugger. His physical gifts are off the charts. But to become a truly next-level great NFL defender, you need the instincts to match.
Based on a promising comment by Bill Belichick earlier this week, Dugger has the magic combo.
“Kyle’s a smart kid and he works really hard. He takes coaching well and you can definitely see improvement, I would say not only from day-to-day, but in some cases from play-to-play,” Belichick said during a video conference. “I think he’s got a good understanding of football and he’s a pretty instinctive player, so when you tell him something, he usually understands what you’re talking about, especially if he’s had any chance at all to experience it before. There are some things that he just hasn’t seen that might take a little longer to explain to him, just because he’s not familiar with them.
“But, he’s very coachable, he picks up things quickly and the things that he hasn’t seen before, once he sees them and can understand what the conflict is or what the situation is that we have to address, he’s been very good to make those adjustments and handle it the next time.”
Dugger spoke about the importance of focus with reporters on Friday.
“It’s like a snap. You take it in, enjoy every second of it, but I realized early that I am here to do a job and that is to help this team however I can,” Dugger said. “As soon as that whistle blows, I am locked right in and focused on what I need to do.”
Everyone in the NFL is a freak athlete, some more than others. But the very best rise to the top because of the intangible things. Dugger may show the typical rookie growing pains, especially if he plays a big role early on. But it sounds like the dynamic safety out of Lenoir-Rhyne is off to a good start in all departments.
J.J. Taylor maximizes his opportunities
Rookie running back J.J. Taylor stands at 5-foot-6 and 185 pounds. Basically he makes Danny Woodhead look like LeGarrette Blount. But Taylor’s speed, explosiveness, and versatility made him a candidate to sign with a team and get a shot in training camp. Just to get this far is impressive enough for Taylor, who stopped growing after high school and worked his way up to playing varsity before that.
Now, Taylor could be a sleeper to make the 53-man roster. Running backs coach Ivan Fears described him as “Little Dion [Lewis],” which caught plenty of ears. But it’s tough to imagine Taylor cracking a depth chart that already includes James White, Rex Burkhead, Sony Michel, and the emerging Damien Harris.
The key for Taylor may be to prove that he can contribute in a number of ways – as a pass-catching back, returner, gunner, what have you. He knows the importance of versatility, for himself and for the Patriots’ general philosophy.
“It just means that your opportunities open up a lot more,” Taylor said. “I try to do whatever it is that the coaches ask of me and I try to perfect that craft and work on everything I can possibly do in the future.”
Paul Quessenberry’s road to the Patriots
In one of the all-time Classic Belichick™ signings, Paul Quessenberry has gone from Navy defensive end to Patriots tight end – four years removed from the last time he played football.
It was for good reason, though. Quessenberry has served as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps and in various roles as a trained infantry officer in the 1st Marine Division. He was also the deputy director of the 1st Marine Division schools. His nickname ought to be “Bad-Assenberry.”
But Quessenberry admitted that he’s had football on his mind for years, before deciding to pursue the opportunity to improbably make an NFL roster.
“Somewhere along that journey, I don’t really have a specific moment in time where I decided to pursue football again, but my love and passion for the game was burning hot as ever and I felt like I had maintained relatively good shape,” Quessenberry said in a video conference with reporters. “It wouldn’t be too difficult of a transition if I just committed to a different style of physical training to get into football shape. So that’s what I did. When I had the time outside of my responsibilities in the Marine Corps I was training to play football again.”
Considering the lack of experience up and down the tight end depth chart, it wouldn’t be the most shocking thing if Quessenberry carved out a special teams role on the roster. But either way, to quote Julian Edelman during a 28-3 game … “Gonna be a hell of a story.”
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff or send him a nasty email at email@example.com.