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Trevor Williams is the unsung hero on this Chargers team

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NFL: Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Chargers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

We knew Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa would do their thing. We figured 2 corners would be playing at a high level. We just didn’t know one of those corners would be Trevor Williams. Knowing Jason Verrett’s injury history not addressing corner early in the draft or in free agency came off as ignorant to me. Desmond King’s speed deficiency eliminates him. He can’t run on the perimeter. The Chargers won’t even try him out there. Enter Williams, the second year undrafted free agent out of Penn State. If you told me at the end of the year last year that he would be starting I would tell you that the team is in big trouble. To be expected as a rookie at one of the tougher positions to play in the NFL, but Williams struggled mightily. They were trying all kinds of combinations towards the end of the year last year and Williams wasn’t working.

What a difference a year makes.

Last year in 389 snaps Williams broke up 5 passes but didn’t have an interception and most importantly, was burnt left and right. He was targeted 29 times, gave up 18 catches, 12 of which were 1st downs. He had more “blown” coverages, coverages where you’re just in position to make a play, than “in position” coverages. There wasn’t much suggesting Williams could turn it around.

Gus Bradley?

The Chargers have played predominant zone this year. A change from last year. About 21% of the time the Chargers are in zone. Williams has been off in coverage more and relied on his athleticism. Running with guys has not been an issue. We’ll get to that later, though. I want to start with his tackling.

Best tackler on the team?

Some have suggested King is the best tackler on the team. I’ve seen him whiff a handful of times. Per footballoutsiders, Williams has missed once all year. As you know, tackling is an issue for this team. Verrett was hit and miss as a tackler. We already know how bad the safeties are. I’m less impressed with Williams ability as a tackler and more impressed with his reaction skills. He flies upfield, man. It’s awesome.

Williams didn’t have many strengths on his scouting report out of college but one was “a great tackler.” Is he ever. He doesn’t leave his feet. He wraps up. He should give tackling lessons to the rest of the team. Williams has 19 solo tackles this year and a whopping 9 of those are for stops. Nine. Almost half his tackles are coming at the line of scrimmage. Another area where the team has struggled at in recent years was giving up yards after the catch. Or just bringing the receiver down in general. Williams is giving up 1.8 yards after the catch.

Trevor the tarp

I mentioned his coverage stats from last year. They were bad and that’s being kind. In 366 snaps this year, Williams has been pro bowl caliber. He’s been targeted 19 times, has surrendered 9 receptions for 88 yards. 6 games in to the year Williams has yet to give up 100 yards. In the season. 31 of those yards came on that sandlot play where Jay Cutler chucked it up to Devante Parker. It’s football, though, those things happen. Where Williams has really taken a step forward in coverage this year is his ball skills and route recognition. How many times have we clamored for corners to get their head around when the ball is thrown their way. Williams has consistently done that this year.

That’s a nice job of squeezing to Parker and getting his head around early. Then he has the awareness to knock the ball out. That’s big time. He did the same thing earlier in the game on a similar vertical route.

Williams is a former receiver and above you can see a little of that. The issue when most younger defensive backs turn for the ball is they lose track of the receiver. You’re supposed to “lean and locate” by keeping a hand on the receiver. Something Williams does perfectly above.

Last game he finally had a chance to make a play, and he finished. Something it feels like the Chargers haven’t done enough of in the secondary this year.

I love this. Even if it was an errant throw. He knows where the ball is at all times.

Williams has seen his fair share of speed. The Denver duo, Torrey Smith, Kenny Stills, Tyreek Hill, Amari Cooper, and Odell Beckham Jr. That’s a track team right there. Williams has fared well against them all. There was one route I remember when he faced press coverage against Hill and Hill took off on him. He was a step and a half behind but the ball was out of bounds. Hill is out running anyone. On every other target downfield Williams has been running with guys. Here he is below against OBJ on a double move.

This is what makes this coverage so impressive. Usually once Beckham starts and restarts, you’re done for. Williams is right there the entire time. Knowing that guys just can’t run by you does a lot for your confidence. It also opens up the playbook for your coordinator. Allows you to play on more of an island. Slowly but surely we’re seeing more of that for Williams as the season goes along.

Here are 3 routes against Michael Crabtree, a very good route runner, where Williams is in his hip pocket. 2 of them he stops on a dime with Crabtree.

He’s playing with the utmost confidence this year. Williams has given up 1 touchdown and that was to Alshon Jeffrey on a slant when he was draped over him. I expect Williams to keep playing at a high level. There’s no evidence that this will stop. It’s not fluky. There’s no dumb luck involved here. If Williams is able to keep this up, covering and tackling, the defense has a chance to be the unit we thought they would before the season started. I don’t want to say this too loudly but he’s outplaying Casey Hayward. That’s no slight to Hayward, Williams is just at that level right now. He’s looking like a real steal for the Chargers.