Nickel Package: Five Things to Watch in Ravens vs. Raiders
As the Ravens (6-2) square off with the Raiders (3-5) Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, here's a checklist of key areas and people to keep an eye on:
-- Aaron Wilson
-- Aaron Wilson
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5. What should we make of Cary Williams' season?( Getty Images / November 4, 2012 )
Williams is having a decent season, especially considering his offseason hip surgery and the fact that was still hurting early in the season and throughout training camp.
He's also a former seventh-round draft pick who's been thrust into a role that wasn't expected for him: filling in for shutdown cornerback Lardarius Webb and drawing the assignment of containing opponents' most dangerous receivers.
Although Williams does get picked on occasionally and will likely have issues against elite wide receivers, it's not as if he never issues a rebuttal.
He intercepted his fourth pass of the season against Browns rookie Brandon Weeden a week ago. He's leading the AFC in interceptions and is tied for third in the NFL.
Does the interception total mean that he's getting targeted selectively? Of course, but it also means that Williams will make quarterbacks pay occasionally for throwing in his direction.
He returned his first NFL interception for a touchdown against Weeden in a game earlier this season at M&T Bank Stadium.
Williams is tall, fast and relatively physical. He struggles with consistently turning his head and making plays on the ball. He also allows too many short-to-intermediate completions.
The sports comparison that rings true for Williams is he's like a competitive middle-of-the-road boxing contender who absorbs uppercuts and haymakers for the early rounds, but will answer later with a few combinations of his own for those that completely underestimate him.
This isn't to say that Williams is a great cornerback, but he's a hard-working, tough, improving young cornerback who's establishing himself as a legitimate starter in this league. Betting on himself by refusing to accept the Ravens' contract extension offer during the offseason that was too low for his taste, Williams' play this season should qualify him for a solid payday here in Baltimore or somewhere else.
Unless the light clicks for former first-round cornerback Jimmy Smith between now and the end of the season, Williams appears worthy of retaining since Webb will be coming off a serious injury. NFL teams need three good cornerbacks nowadays.