When Greg Williams started coaching, it was with the Cardinals. Well, at least with their field.
His first coaching gig came in 2003, when he was a coaching intern at Arizona State. Back then, the Sun Devils shared their stadium with their NFL neighbors. The Cardinals moved away and Williams moved on. 16 years later, they're reuniting.
"That was a long time ago," Williams said Tuesday, on re-exploring Arizona. "So just trying to get reacclimated. Somethings are coming back to me, but I haven't had much time to get out and about. ... We've been in the office and the hotel, that's about it."
Williams will now serve as the cornerbacks coach for the Cardinals after spending his last season in Denver as the defensive backs coach under Vance Joseph.
While he figures out what has changed around the Loop 202, he can count on knowing one thing: A lot of his job will revolve around Patrick Peterson.
NFL restrictions keep coaches from contacting players right now, so Williams is still waiting to get to really know Peterson.
Plus, Peterson's been busy since the regular season ended. He had his eighth Pro Bowl to attend, starred in the NFL's "who's who" Super Bowl commercial, and is now trying to get Antonio Brown to call him. Despite that packed schedule, Williams feels he already has a good grasp on whom he'll be working with.
"I know what he is as a player," Williams said. "We've all been in the league long enough to see him, since he's gotten into this league, we know what kind of player he is. But just since I've been here, and not just listening to other coaches, but other people in the building talk about the kind of person that he is, that's what kind of gets you excited about it. You get a guy with that kind of elite ability, and it sounds like he's an elite person as well."
Williams' bigger challenge will be that pesky spot opposite Peterson. For years, the Cardinals have struggled to solidify their No. 2 corner. Signing Robert Alford last week indicated some stability. Alford is a former second-round pick in the 2013 draft who was a consistent starter the past five seasons in Atlanta.
But as Peterson shuts down one side of the field, the responsibility increases elsewhere. It's an indication of how much Peterson's ability changes an opposing team's game plan. In avoiding the Cardinals star, opposing teams cast a harsher spotlight on Peterson's counterpart. And cap space, talent pools and other positional needs make it difficult for any team to get one Peterson, much less two.
"It’s such a unique situation when you have a Patrick Peterson," Williams said. "That’s what makes it so unique, is that he’s such an elite player and done it for such a long time that the guy opposite him becomes so much more important, because of what he represents when he’s out there on one side of the field. So it creates different schematics for us as defensive coaches, which we will look at week to week as to how we’re going to handle that."
The difference was tangible. According to NFL's Next Gen Stats, Peterson was the least targeted outside cornerback in the league, with quarterbacks actively seeking to throw it elsewhere. He was the nearest defender on just 10.4 percent of coverage snaps, the lowest at his position. Peterson's ball-hawking abilities ultimately mean that his counterpart is going to see more throws in his direction.
"It’s a good problem to have, let’s just say that," Williams said. "Because not everybody has that issue. Some people don’t have one with that ability. And we have not just one, we have an elite one. And now we’ve got a chance to utilize some real good gifts in Robert Alford and the other guys that will be competing to play opposite Pat P. It’s gonna be really fun."
Source: Katherine Fitzgerald | Arizona Republic