On Sunday afternoon, the Kansas City Chiefs fulfilled expectations with a resounding 41-10 victory over the Chicago Bears. This was no nail-biter against an inferior opponent; instead, it was a game where everything fell into place, resulting in an emphatic domination of the Bears.
In every football contest, regardless of its final outcome, there exist unsung heroes who quietly shine, making indispensable contributions that often evade the spotlight. These unsung players operate discreetly — under the radar.
This week, the spotlight falls on a player whose exceptional performance in Week 3 warrants recognition: a second-year cornerback from Fayetteville State named Joshua Williams.
An under-the-radar performance
When he was selected in the fourth round (135th overall) of the 2022 NFL Draft, Williams was labeled as a small-school cornerback who was armed with the attributes and talents of a big-school player. His physical attributes — characterized by his size and length — aligned seamlessly with the qualities typically sought by Kansas City’s defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo in his corners.
Despite sharing the cornerback room with stalwarts like L’Jarius Sneed and Trent McDuffie, Williams has carved a niche for himself: a rotational role with fellow second-year corner Jaylen Watson — particularly when the Chiefs employ the nickel formation. Notably, Williams has been steadily asserting his dominance in the battle to be the third cornerback, amassing 87 snaps (46%) through three games compared to Watson’s 50 (27%).
Williams is undeniably earning his place on the field. Per Pro Football Focus, receivers he’s been covering this season have collected just two receptions on seven targets, limiting opposing quarterbacks to a paltry passer rating of 41.4 against Williams.
His tenacity in coverage was once again on display against the Bears. He logged 17 snaps — 12 of which were in coverage — allowing only one catch for six yards on three targets. Against Chicago, PFF gave him an impressive coverage grade of 83.7. Only McDuffie surpassed him with a stellar grade of 91.6.
Williams demonstrated his ability to defend against deep passes, successfully thwarting two of the Bears’ deep shots. One particular play vividly illustrated Williams’ growth over his rookie season.
Last year this would have been a PI on Williams as he often would not trust himself as the ball was arriving. He shows good timing here as he breaks up the pass intended for Claypool. pic.twitter.com/mvnpXBKKEB— Maurice Elston (@ReceNickelz) September 26, 2023
The bottom line
Considering his lack of collegiate experience against high-level competition, the Chiefs were well aware that Williams’ development could take some time. Nevertheless, his raw talent was undeniable — and now in his second year, Williams is taking the kind of leap that football enthusiasts love to witness. He’s steadily emerging as Kansas City’s primary nickel cornerback, a pivotal role that could be a significant factor in the defensive unit’s continued dominance.
Williams is unquestionably a player we should watch very carefully as he continues to make his mark in the NFL.