While head coach Bruce Arians has repeatedly said it's Williams' job to lose, through two preseason contests, Williams play has been largely inconsistent. After a rough opening week against the Oakland Raiders, Williams had some positive takeaways from his effort against the San Diego Chargers, but still allowed receivers to create too much separation.
CardinalsSource tracked every play Williams was targeted on Friday to provide a thorough evaluation of Williams' performance.
1st target: After a three-and-out to start the game, the Chargers targeted Williams on the second series of the contest when quarterback Kellen Clemens threw a back shoulder fade to wide receiver Keenan Allen along the near sideline. Williams was covering Allen out of the slot, which is a clear indication the Cardinals wanted to test Williams against the Chargers' top receiving threat. On the pass, Williams was in good position with his feet as Allen didn't create more than a step or two of separation on the 10-yard route, but Allen went up and high-pointed the ball to make the catch for a first down. Williams attacked Allen from the back side, when the cornerback could have taken a step forward and put his hands up to deny the pass. Overall, this is a tough route for Williams to cover because it's a timing play the Chargers executed well, but with better technique, Williams may have been able to bat this pass away.
2nd target: The second time the Chargers throw in Williams' direction, Clemens is really picking on Williams side of the field instead of specifically targeting the cornerback. On third and goal from the 2-yard line, Williams is lined up directly over Allen in what appears to be man coverage. At the snap, Allen completely shakes off Williams' coverage and runs wide open on an inside slant route hat surely would have resulted in a touchdown if Clemens targeted Allen. Instead though, nickel corner Tyvon Branch falls down while covering a corner route, and Clemens pass is wildly inaccurate as Branch's receiver was also wide open. Ultimately, this wasn't a true target for Williams, but the Chargers were trying to read his side of the field, and neither Cardinals' cornerback was in good position on this play.
3rd target: On 2nd and 11 from the Cardinals' 29-yard line, Clemens targets receiver Travis Benjamin on a comeback route about a step or two in front of the first down marker. Williams is in great position with his feet on this play, as he's running step for step with Benjamin. At first glance, it looks like Williams does everything right as it appears as though Williams bats the pass away, and after a closer look, Williams did indeed deny an entry for Benjamin. Williams puts his inside hand up which is ideal fundamental technique for a cornerback defending a comeback route, and Benjamin couldn't make the play.
4th target: With about three minutes to go in the first half, the Chargers take over at their own 15-yard line and after a 13-yard gain on first down, Clemens takes a shot over the head of Williams down the left sideline. Receiver Tyrell Williams clearly has a step on Brandon Williams down the field, however, Clemens under throws the ball and allows Williams to catch up, and the rookie gets his hand in position to bat the pass away. A better thrown pass is probably completed over Williams' head, but he does everything he can to prevent the receiver from coming down with the pass.
5th target: On 2nd and 10 from the 30-yard line, Clemens looks for Benjamin on a quick slant, and these are the types of routes that have given Williams trouble. Williams hasn't read the hips of receivers well to determine when and where they'll break, and he's at least two steps behind Benjamin when the ball comes out of Clemens' hand. Fortunately for Williams, Benjamin tries to turn up field before he has the ball in his hands, and he ends up dropping the pass.
Williams comes out of the game at halftime, having surrendered just one catch for 13 yards. Clearly, the damage could have been worse as Clemens missed a wide open Allen on a certain touchdown and Benjamin dropped a slant route after creating separation from Williams. Ultimately, though, five targets in a half isn't a bad outing for Williams, and he made two nice plays with his hands that demonstrated overall improvement in his technique from the first week of the regular season.