GREEN BAY, Wis. — Wherever an opposing team’s best wide receiver lines up this season, expect Packers cornerback Tramon Williams to follow.
Williams’ performance in the Packers’ third preseason game last week against the Cincinnati Bengals was notable for multiple reasons.
Most important, he showed further signs that he can be the shutdown cornerback Green Bay’s defense desperately needs. Despite being listed as the starting left cornerback and playing that side of the field almost exclusively early in training camp, he followed Bengals emerging star receiver A.J. Green all over the field throughout the first half and made Green a non-factor. The 5-foot-11, 191-pound Williams broke up two first-down passes intended for Green early in the second quarter despite giving up five inches and 16 pounds in the matchup.
Considering there is still no definite answer on who will start opposite Williams at cornerback, his ability to control a talented receiver such as Green may have been the deciding factor in his role for this season. Because on Tuesday, it sure sounded like Williams will be shadowing a No. 1 receiver on a weekly basis.
“I feel that it shows a confidence that the coaches and everyone has in me,” Williams said. “It gives you that sense of pride not to let those guys down. I feel good doing it. I know that I’ll be doing it most of the time, and I’m up for the challenge.”
Though Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt was not specific, he also implied Williams will not simply be sticking to the left side of the field.
“We’re going to ask him to do difficult things, and I think he definitely has the ability to get them done,” Whitt said. “He’s right where he needs to be. I think he’s one of the top cover guys that’s out there.”
Both Williams and Whitt acknowledged that each game will dictate exactly how Green Bay’s cornerbacks will be used. However, when elite receivers such as Detroit’s Calvin Johnson begin to prepare for the Packers, it might be smart for them to focus the majority of their film study on Williams.
“Any time I step on the field I feel like it’s going to be a great day,” Williams said. “Obviously, it’s the NFL and it doesn’t always go that way. Any time I step on the field I feel that I’ve prepared myself to be successful. Whether it goes that way or it doesn’t, I can live with it because I know I’ve done everything in my power to know what’s going on out there.
“I’m always prepared.”
Williams, 29, made the Pro Bowl in 2010 during a six-interception season that concluded with the Packers winning the Super Bowl. But in Week 1 last season, Williams hurt his right shoulder and was not the same player he had been. Preferring to play an aggressive bump-and-run style when healthy, Williams was forced to give a bigger cushion to wide receivers and his performance suffered as a result.
Nearly a year later, that shoulder has healed enough to allow Williams to be a full participant throughout all of training camp and look like he is back to his 2010 form.
“I feel good,” Williams said. “I don’t really think about it. I’m just going out and playing. I came off a down year. I’m back at it. I’m focused. At the end of the day, it’s about winning a Super Bowl. If you don’t get that accomplished, it all fails.
“We want to get back to Super Bowls, and that’s what we’re about around here.”
Williams’ shoulder issues were one of several reasons Green Bay allowed more passing yards than any team in NFL history last season. But if he can do to the rest of the NFL what he did to Green and Cincinnati’s offense a week ago, the Packers shouldn’t spend another season ranking anywhere near the bottom of the league in that category again.