Quick, name a defensive back Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face when they host the Los Angeles Rams on Monday Night Football for Week 11. Likely, you said Jalen Ramsey, and for good reason.
Ramsey is no slouch in pass coverage and can be credited as a big reason why the Rams have allowed the third-fewest passing yards in the NFL thus far.
He hasn’t done it alone however, and Locked On Rams Podcast host Sosa Kremenjes has been championing an emerging name in Los Angeles for some time now. That name is, Darious Williams.
One of the most impressive highlight tapes you'll find, and it came from one game for Darious Williams (@Dee_Willl2). What a truly dominant performance.— Sosa K (@QBsMVP) November 16, 2020
Ball. Skills. On. Point. #ProBowl #AllPro pic.twitter.com/SQ5HhWLypV
For those wondering, yes those highlights were from last week’s Rams win over the Seattle Seahawks. Let’s look at where Williams has come from, to get just a little insight into who he is today.
Williams’ NFL career started as an undrafted free-agent with the Baltimore Ravens. Three years later, he’s starting for one of the best defensive units in the league. Simple right? We’ve heard it before. Not like this though.
His college career started at a small school in Ohio before moving to Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). The same UAB which shut down their program following their 2014 season. One of the players impacted? Darious Williams, of course.
However, back it up a little bit and the fact he was even part of the team getting shut down is interesting, considering he missed the cut in his first walk-on tryout opportunity in 2013. So imagine going from missing the cut as a walk-on at UAB to starting in the NFL just seven years later. We should all be so lucky to have such career progression.
Luck had nothing to do with it though. Faith and determination are the themes of Williams’ story.
After going through two tryouts and a program shutdown which was eventually started up again, Williams tallied five interceptions and fifteen passes defensed in 2017, before heading to the NFL.
So, before he even got his start as an undrafted free-agent, Williams had already sustained his efforts through seven seasons of ups and downs.
“I’m a big faith guy,” Williams said speaking to media. “...I always have faith that something’s going to happen, and I never get caught up in, if a door closes or a door looks like it freezes, that’s the end of it. I just always know it’s something that’s opening, there’s something that’s coming, and that’s how it always was. From UAB, to possibly going undrafted, then going undrafted, all that never really fazed me because I always knew I was going to have a shot.”
I know a lot of people who speak a big game. A lot of, ‘everything happens for a reason’, going around. I don’t know many people who could persevere in their professional efforts the way Williams has, and boy has it paid off.
Finally getting a chance in 2020, Williams hasn’t squandered one second of it making his mark on the NFL. Trough ten weeks of games, Williams is the hardest wide receiver to throw at in regards to opponent passer rating allowed, according to PFF.
Williams has been targeted just 37 times this season, which ranks 32nd of a possible 34 NFL cornerbacks who have dropped into coverage at least 300 times. In those targets he’s allowed just eighteen receptions, one touchdown, and has intercepted four.
Among the same group of corners, Williams is tied for second with those four interceptions with Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Carlton Davis III.
In fact, when you compare the production for and against both Williams and Davis, they are eerily similar with the Rams defender looking better in many measurables.
Targets per Coverage Snap: 8.9
Reception Allowed %: 49%
Yards per Reception Allowed: 14.5
Targets Per Touchdown Allowed: 37
Targets Per Interception: 9.25
Carlton Davis III
Targets per Coverage Snap: 6.4
Reception Allowed %: 56%
Yards per Reception Allowed: 11.3
Targets Per Touchdown Allowed: 30.5
Targets Per Interception: 15.25
Imagine having Jalen Ramsey, and then Carlton Davis III on the other side. From a production allowed standpoint the Rams have had that or better from a lot of these numbers.
Stats are a grain of salt game of course. From a physical standpoint Davis heights in at 6’1 while Williams stands 5’9.
The mismatch with Williams certainly appears to come in the height and wingspan. Other teams have tried to exploit this of course, and many have come away frustrated and defeated in their efforts.
For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers there are no wide receivers who aren’t 5’10 or higher on the active roster and only two who are shorter than six feet tall. You expect quarterbacks - even Tom Brady - to go away from Jalen Ramsey as much as possible.
In fact, if you go back to the cornerback grouping who have 300 coverage snaps or more, Ramsey is one of the two defenders who have been targeted less than Williams while allowing the same amount of receptions, almost 100-yards fewer, and a 76.3 quarterback rating himself.
A game which is fully expected to be a defensive struggle features two of the best in the NFL. However, any Bucs fan thinking Brady and Company can just avoid Ramsey and exploit the other match-ups on the field might find themselves a bit surprised if the target they’re eyeing is this undrafted free-agent with minimal experience.
Many have come in thinking the same, and so far they’ve all been turned away at the gates. Every week is a new week though, so perhaps the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can find something against Darious Williams of the Los Angeles Rams others have yet to.
Either way you can bet Brady and his receivers know who Williams is, and if you didn’t know him before, you do now.