Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Marcus Williams committed a poor tackling play at the end of a Saints loss.
The San Francisco 49ers beat the Saints in New Orleans Sunday on a last-second field goal by Robbie Gould. A huge gain by George Kittle on 4th-and-2 helped set it up, and Williams’ dumb play aided the Niners’ efforts.
Jimmy Garoppolo completed a short pass to Kittle, who broke a tackle from Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and began running down the left sideline. Williams was trying to tackle Kittle but struggled to do so and began grabbing Kittle’s facemask.
George Kittle will not be denied .
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) December 8, 2019
Not only was Williams unable to make the tackle, but he also gave San Francisco an extra 15 yards, which was critical in helping their field goal efforts with under 30 seconds left. Instead of having the ball at the 29 and a 46-yard field goal or so, the penalty gave San Francisco the ball at the 14. They were able to kick a 30-yard field goal to win it 48-46.
Williams also cost New Orleans in the playoffs two seasons ago against Minnesota.
The NFL can be notoriously fickle. The risk of injury, the lack of guaranteed money, and the ever-changing game can alter the trajectory of a career very quickly. For some players, it leaves them in a position where they have to prove themselves again in order to re-establish themselves as top-tier stars.
Here are 15 players who are looking to do just that in 2018. They may have had off-field issues, a lot of injuries, are entering a contract year, or any combination thereof. Either way, all eyes will be on them this coming season, and it’s up to them to respond.
1) Odell Beckham Jr., Giants
There’s so much good about Beckham, but we haven’t seen enough of it in the last year or so. He hasn’t stayed healthy. He’s gotten involved in off-field distractions. He hasn’t produced to the standards he’s capable of even when healthy. Now entering a contract year, he needs to prove to the Giants and everyone else that he can let his football do the talking. So far, he’s reportedly off to a good start.
It may be hard to believe, but training camps are just around the corner, and that means meaningful football isn’t far off. It also means that previously injured players, under-performers and sophomores have another opportunity to prove they belong in the hard-hitting NFL.
Here’s a look at 32 players — one from each team — who are ready to make the leap entering the 2018 season.
Arizona Cardinals – Budda Baker, S
With the departure of Tyrann Mathieu, the Cardinals have an obvious void to fill in their secondary. Enter second-year safety Budda Baker, who is expected to take on a much larger defensive role for Steve Wilks. In an aggressive system (Wilks blitzed on 44 percent of the defensive snaps in Carolina), Baker should find himself in a position to excel as a sophomore and potentially even improve upon his already impressive 84.5 Pro Football Focus grade from a season ago.
- Bud Dupree, Budda Baker, Chris Godwin, Corey Davis, Dalvin Cook, David Njoku, Devon Kennard, Devontae Booker, Dion Dawkins, Elijah McGuire, Evan Engram, Gareon Conley, George Kittle, Gerald Everett, John Ross, Jonathan Allen, Kenyan Drake, Kevin King, Leonard Floyd, Malcolm Mitchell, Malik Hooker, Marcus Williams, Matt Judon, Mike Williams, Myles Jack, Patrick Mahomes, Shaq Thompson, Shaquill Griffin, Sidney Jones, Takk McKinley, Xavier Woods, Zach Cunningham
Every year, we see NFL players across the league come into their own despite not having much of a track record. They can be all types; many are second- or third-year players who have matured and overcome injury or adapted to the NFL. There are others who were never highly-touted but find themselves in the right situation.
Each NFL team has breakout candidates. Here is a leading candidate from all of them.
Arizona Cardinals — Haason Reddick, LB
The 13th overall pick in last year’s draft flashed potential and appeared in all 16 games, but only started three of them. He still made an impact, with 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles on the season. The Cardinals plan to move him to inside linebacker, where he’s been studying tape of Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. That bodes well for a big year two breakout.
Atlanta Falcons — Austin Hooper, TE
Year three could be the one that sees Hooper mature into a big target at tight end. His numbers improved last season, as he caught 49 passes and scored three touchdowns. A more prominent role and regular playing time could await him in 2018 and make him a Matt Ryan favorite. He’ll just have to compete with Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Atlanta’s talented running backs for touches.
- Adam Shaheen, Alex Collins, Austin Hooper, Bud Dupree, Carlos Henderson, Chris Godwin, Corey Davis, Dalvin Cook, David Njoku, Dede Westbrook, Devin Funchess, Gareon Conley, Gerald Everett, Haason Reddick, Isaiah Crowell, Jaire Alexander, Jerick McKinnon, John Ross, Josh Doctson, Jourdan Lewis, Kenny Golladay, Kenyan Drake, Marcus Williams, Marlon Mack, Mike Williams WR, Patrick Mahomes, Rex Burkhead, Shaq Lawson, Shaquill Griffin, Sidney Jones, Sterling Shepard, Will Fuller
Marcus Williams will not have to go through his awful moment alone.
Williams missed a tackle on the final play of Sunday’s NFC divisional playoff game between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints that allowed the Vikings to win.
Although many viewed him as a goat for the missed play, Williams is receiving some nice support.
Kenny Lopez of WGNO in New Orleans shared this photo on Twitter Monday of a billboard he says is up on the 10 freeway, which expresses support for Williams:
This billboard just popped up on Interstate-10. This is what being a TRUE Saints fan is all about! We show love for Marcus Williams! @Babymagik32 @drewbrees @Saints #saints #whodat4life #WhoDatNation #whodat #westillbelieve #saintsbillboard @wgnotv #datsok pic.twitter.com/2kKHs5E3CQ
— Kenny Lopez (@KennyLopez_TV) January 16, 2018
The billboard says:
“Dat’s OK Marcus. We [heart symbol] our Saints.”
Even though some fans went after Williams hard on Twitter, this is some clear confirmation that many others have his back. This is just what he needs to help get over the play.
It’s fair to say that New Orleans Saints safety Marcus Williams has had a rough 24 hours, but he took time Monday to thank his loved ones, teammates, and “real fans” for their support.
Williams was largely responsible for the Minnesota Vikings’ walk-off touchdown in Sunday’s NFC divisional game, and was subjected to a torrent of abuse afterward. On Monday, he logged back into Twitter and sent a message to those who were still with him.
I appreciate my friends, real fans, family, and team for everything they have done for me this season all of the support is highly appreciated!No the season didn’t end as planned but one thing for sure I won’t let one play define the type of MAN or PLAYER that I am or will be!
— Marcus Williams (@Babymagik32) January 15, 2018
Williams was obviously devastated after that mistake, and has taken full responsibility for what happened. He had a very good season for New Orleans, and seems to be handling this error as best as he can, which bodes well for his future.
- Marcus Williams
New Orleans Saints safety Marcus Williams may have had a chance to seal a win for his team on Sunday, but Manti Te’o was quick to remind reporters that Williams did not lose the game by himself.
Williams, who inexplicably missed a tackle that allowed Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs to break free for a game-winning touchdown, was hard on himself after the game. The rookie’s teammates defended him, most notably Te’o.
“He’s going to have so many opportunities, and he’s going to make so many great plays in the future,” Te’o said, via Josh Katzenstein of The Times-Picayune. “Everybody makes mistakes, and it wasn’t even him, you know what I mean? It wasn’t just him. He didn’t lose that game. I could’ve done a whole lot of things better. I could’ve made more tackles, I could’ve ran through gaps and made some TFLs, I could’ve done a lot of stuff. It wasn’t Marcus.
Williams had a great rookie season, recording 73 tackles and four interceptions. The second-round pick’s solid play was one of the main reasons the Saints finally had a viable secondary after struggling on defense for years.
“Marcus is a great player. He’s a young player, and he has a bright future ahead of him,” Te’o added. “He’s going to make more great plays than mistakes, and I’m just excited for the kid. He’s going to come back, and he’s going to get better. He’s really already ahead of his time as far as how he plays safety. Now, you add a lot of motivation to that. The sky’s the limit for him, and I’m glad that he’s my safety.”
Williams was reportedly crying in the locker room after the game, and it’s good to see his teammates pick him up after the way fans tore him apart on Twitter. That play will stick with him forever, but he’s young enough where he should have some chances for redemption.