Williams a capable replacement for Reed

OWINGS MILLS -- Sitting on a stool in the locker room, speaking in his low Alabama drawl, Chad Williams illustrates the reality of what life will be like for the Baltimore Ravens' defense without Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed. "I'm a playmaker, but Ed's on a whole ‘nother level," Williams said. "Ed does a great job of making plays and hopefully I can make some plays if I'm in there."

With Reed out indefinitely due to a high ankle sprain, Williams is likely to replace the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year in the starting lineup Sunday against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Judging by Williams' track record, he's more than qualified to fill in during Reed's absence.

This isn't the fourth-year professional's first extended playing time, and he's experienced consistent success in the past. Not to the level of Reed's 21 career interceptions and six touchdowns, but solid contributions nonetheless.

Despite only two career starts, the stocky (5-foot-9, 207 pounds) safety from Southern Mississippi has registered seven career interceptions. Williams was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week in 2002 when he returned Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna's interception 98 yards for a touchdown and blocked a punt to set up a touchdown.

And last season -- his fourth in a row as the Ravens' dime back --Williams intercepted three passes. He scored his third career defensive touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys on a 44-yard interception and returned an interception 94 yards against the Buffalo Bills to set up a field goal.

"Chad's very solid for us," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Since the day he's gotten here, he just does what he's supposed to be doing, when he's supposed to be doing it, how he's supposed to be doing it."

It's probable that while Reed is out quarterbacks will challenge the Ravens in the middle of the field much more liberally. Offensive coordinators have consciously avoided throwing in Reed's area one season removed from him intercepting a franchise-record nine passes.

Williams doesn't have the same range or height as Reed, but is capable of covering ground quickly. Traditionally, he's operated like an extra linebacker, lurking close to the line of scrimmage and covering running backs, tight ends and slot receivers in the flats and short zones.

When Reed hopped off with a sprained knee and ankle in the Ravens' 16-3 win over the Cleveland Browns, Williams played nearly the entire second half. Linebacker Bart Scott and cornerback Dale Carter filled his role in the dime package (six defensive backs).

"The defense involves all 11 guys, and if one man goes down, the next man has to step up and keep on ticking," said Williams, who finished tied for second on the team in interceptions last season while recording two sacks and six pass deflections. "If Ed's not able to go, we shouldn't miss a beat.

"We should be all right. It's unfortunate that Ed had to go down, but I think we can still keep rolling."

If anything since he arrived in Baltimore as an unheralded sixth-round pick, Williams has built a reputation for reliability and strong tackling. He has never missed a game due to injury or any other reason, playing in 53 consecutive games.

"That's what you can count on with me," Williams said. "I'm a guy who knows his role, knows his job, is going to get the job done and makes the least mistakes possible."

NOTE: Voting has begun for the Pro Bowl, and ballots are available through www.nfl.com.

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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