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Joshua Williams plans to ‘play the next game — and make it my best game’

The rookie cornerback knows he must learn from his performance on Sunday.

Buffalo Bills v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Rookie cornerback Joshua Williams made his first career start for the Kansas City Chiefs in Sunday’s 24-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills. Taking the snaps of injured starter Rashad Fenton, the first-year player experienced a true trial-by-fire against arguably the NFL’s top offense.

Williams gave up a pair of touchdowns, with wide receiver Stefon Diggs appearing to notably benefit from the defender’s inexperience on a third-quarter score. Speaking from the locker room on Thursday, the Chiefs’ fourth-round selection in April’s draft took an introspective tone on his performance.

“Aside from the obvious — the two touchdowns — I think there were some positives,” Williams claimed. “Just have to keep working because it’s game of details and inches. If you take one or two plays off, those are one or two scores. I’ve just got to keep getting better, finishing, executing. Get on my teammates, get on my coaches, getting in the playbook, and I think I’m going to be fine.”

The Chiefs selected Williams from Division II Fayetteville State — which did not even have a season during his junior year due to COVID. After being a standout in offseason workouts, his inexperience showed in extended preseason action. Williams had played sparingly on defense before Sunday — though he was on the field for the most important defensive play in Week 5’s 30-29 win against the Las Vegas Raiders. Despite the mixed results, the rookie feels the game action was invaluable.

NFL: OCT 10 Raiders at Chiefs Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“I feel like being out there is where you get the most exponential growth,” he explained. “Getting that real game time experience, it’s not like anything you can simulate in practice or anything. I feel like it was a valuable game for me an and my teammates. A lot of things we can take away from it.”

He also trusts Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, defensive backs coach Dave Merritt and his teammates to help him with lessons learned from his rough outing.

“They were more worried about getting me the experience,” he recalled, “[and] getting me some of that real game time action. I’m going to use it. I’m going to take all the good coaching I get from Spags and Coach Merritt and also some of the coaching I get from this great DB unit, my teammates. Those are the guys that make me a better player.”

One of those teammates, Chiefs safety Juan Thornhill, had some advice for Williams when he spoke before practice on Thursday, predicting that the rookie’s errors against Diggs would be correctable with more experience.

“I would just tell him keep his head up,” Thornhill advised. “If you really watch the film, he had really good technique. It was just one small thing that allowed him to give up a touchdown. When he turned towards him, the ball was still sailing. When he turned to him, it slowed him down a little bit. If he would have just flipped his head the other way, he would have probably intercepted that ball.

“I would just tell him if you turn the other way and you’ll make that play. Just keep his confidence up and not knock him. It’s the NFL — they’re going to win some plays, and we’re going to make some plays. You can’t get down on yourself.”

Spagnuolo had a similar assessment when he spoke on Thursday.

“He was in great position,” the coach said of the play. “He was stride for stride — he was in step. If he just turns a different way, it can be a different outcome. It would be a lot different if somebody just blew by him or he couldn’t do his work at the line of scrimmage and he was getting beat. I didn’t see that happening. To us, that’s encouraging.”

He appreciates how Williams responds to coaching and believes the experience gained will benefit the team in the long run — possibly as soon as this week’s game against the San Francisco 49ers.

“He’s one of the guys — Dave [Merritt], and I say all the time — that he tries to do it exactly the way you coach it,” Spagnuolo boasted. “He’s been doing that since he got here and just gets better and better. He just dusts off and moves forward. I thought he did that during the game. I expect him to do it going into this game. He had to expect that there were going to be a couple of plays in there that weren’t going to go exactly the way we wanted, but we live through the growing pains. Hopefully — going forward — that helps us.”

Williams echoed the sentiments of his defensive coordinator and teammate but refused to make excuses for how Sunday went, including his coverage on Diggs.

NFL: OCT 16 Bills at Chiefs

“You’ve got to have a short memory,” he declared, “because one or two touchdowns can be three or four if you’re thinking about it. Stuff happens in a game. I don’t ever want to say, ‘There’s nothing I could do.’ I honestly do believe I could have broken that up. It’s all the minute details — finding the ball, getting my head around, things like that — that would have changed a lot of those plays. Just have to keep moving forward, learn from those mistakes and have a short-term memory so I can play the next game — and make that be my best game.”

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