Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Adding context to Williams' rookie season
By Mike Rodak
With free agency set to open in two weeks, few positions on the Buffalo Bills' roster are as uncertain as safety.
Both Jairus Byrd and Jim Leonhard -- who started a combined 16 games last season -- are set to become unrestricted free agents. Byrd is the Bills' top priority and could be assigned with the franchise tag if the two sides can't reach a long-term deal by March 3.
Leonhard, who said next season will be his last in the NFL, is ideally a depth-level player at this point in his career. Still, his departure would open a hole at a position where the Bills have some young talent but few sure bets.
Will Aaron Williams continue his career turnaround after finding success as a safety last season? Can Da'Norris Searcy be a reliable starter if needed, or should he remain a role player?
And what about Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks? The Bills drafted the two safeties in back-to-back rounds last April and neither made any impact. Even with Byrd sitting out all of the preseason, neither player could settle into a role in the back-end. Eventually, the Bills decided to sign Leonhard shortly before the regular season, pushing Williams and Meeks further down the depth chart.
Since Meeks missed a large chunk of last season with an ankle injury, the spotlight shines brighter on Williams, who played in 16 games. Despite staying healthy, Williams was on the field for just 2.8 percent of defensive snaps, significantly less than many of his counterparts in the draft.
For context, here is a breakdown of all safeties from the 2013 draft, including their defensive snap percentage and a quick rundown of their performance:
Kenny Vaccaro (81.2 percent) -- Played in 14 games, all starts, for the Saints' second-ranked pass defense. His 77 tackles were second-most among rookie safeties.
Eric Reid (92.3 percent) -- Started all 16 games for the 49ers' seventh-ranked pass defense. His four interceptions led all rookie safeties, while his 70 tackles were fourth-most among that group.
Matt Elam (93.9 percent) -- Played in 16 games, making 15 starts for the Ravens. His 76 tackles were third among rookie safeties.
Johnathan Cyprien (93.3 percent) -- Started 15 games for the Jaguars, leading all rookie safeties in playing time. He forced two fumbles, more than any other rookie safety, while adding an interception and a sack. His 98 tackles also led rookie safeties.
D.J. Swearinger (77.6 percent) -- Played in all 16 games, making 10 starts for the Texans' third-ranked pass defense. He recorded 67 tackles, one forced fumble and one interception.
Tyrann Mathieu (72.1 percent) -- Converted from cornerback and started 11 games before an injury ended his season. He recorded two interceptions, one sack and one forced fumble for the Cardinals.
T.J. McDonald (60.7 percent) -- Spent eight weeks on injured reserve, but still started 10 games for the Rams. He had 53 tackles, one sack and one interception.
J.J. Wilcox (44.7 percent) -- Played in 13 games, making five starts for the Cowboys' 30th-ranked pass defense.
Shawn Williams (1.1 percent) -- Played in 16 games but did not make any starts for the Bengals' fifth-ranked pass defense. His 10 special teams tackles were second among rookie safeties.
Duron Harmon (37.3 percent) -- Played in 15 games, making three starts for the Patriots. He recorded 31 tackles and made two interceptions.
Duke Williams (2.8 percent) -- Played in 16 games but did not make any starts for the Bills' fourth-ranked pass defense. He finished with four special teams tackles.
Shamarko Thomas (17.8 percent) -- Played in 14 games for the Steelers, making two starts. He contributed seven tackles on special teams.
Phillip Thomas (no snaps) -- Missed the entire season for the Redskins with a Lisfranc injury.
Earl Wolff (43.6 percent) -- Played in 11 games, making six starts for the Eagles' 32nd-ranked pass defense.
Jonathan Meeks (no snaps) -- Played in eight games, missing eight games with an ankle injury. He added two tackles on special teams.
Cooper Taylor (0.4 percent) -- Played in 10 games, all as a reserve for the Giants. He had four special teams tackles.
Josh Evans (60.0 percent) -- Played in 15 games, starting 11 games for the Jaguars' 25th-ranked pass defense. His 54 tackles were seventh among rookie safeties.
Jamoris Slaughter (no snaps) -- Spent all season on the Browns' practice squad.
Bacarri Rambo (32.7 percent) -- Played in 11 games, making three starts for the Redskins. He notched 38 tackles, including five on special teams.
John Boyett (no snaps) -- Was placed on the non-football injury list prior to training camp. He was arrested on public intoxication charges in September and later released by the Colts.
Kemal Ishmael (0.2 percent) -- Was active for four games for the Falcons, adding one tackle on special teams.
Zeke Motta (15 percent) -- Played in 10 games for the Falcons, making one start.
Daimion Stafford (0.8 percent) -- Played in 16 games, all as a reserve for the Titans. He added seven tackles on special teams.
Don Jones (no snaps) -- Played in 16 games, all as a reserve for the Dolphins. His 11 special teams tackles led all rookie safeties.
Undrafted free agents:
Jeff Heath (52.4 percent) -- Played in 16 games, starting nine games for the Cowboys' 30th-ranked pass defense. His 52 tackles were ninth-most among rookie safeties.
Jahleel Addae (36.9 percent) -- Played in 16 games, making two starts for the Chargers' 29th-ranked pass defense. His nine special teams tackles were third-most among rookie safeties.
Robert Lester (28.5 percent) -- Played in 12 games, starting four games for the Panthers' sixth-ranked pass defense. His three interceptions were second-most among rookie safeties.
Tony Jefferson (18.6 percent) -- Played in 16 games, making two starts for the Cardinals' 14th-ranked pass defense. He added six tackles on special teams.