During the opening week of training camp, I wrote about what I saw in a more confident and a more instinctive version of New Orleans Saints halfback Jonathan Williams from what we saw a year ago.

Williams was quietly having one of the better camps of the Saints halfbacks, and he showcased his skills in the opening preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars rushing the ball four times for 25 yards and a touchdown.

Williams’ journey to the NFL was not a clear path.

Coming out of Allen High School in Texas, Williams was considered one of the top halfbacks in the nation. He initially committed to Missouri but changed his mind and selected Arkansas over Texas A&M, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

As a freshman, Williams saw reserve duty rushing for 231 yards on 45 carries.

As a sophomore, Williams rushed for more than 900 yards for the Razorbacks in a system which alternated halfbacks, but Arkansas coaches raved about his potential as a heavy-duty runner and receiving skills coming out of the backfield.

As a junior, Williams rushed for 1,190 yards on 211 carries (5.6 yards per carry) and scored 12 touchdowns, along with catching 11 passes for 65 yards and two scores. He teamed up with fellow Arkansas halfback Alex Collins to become the only duo in the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2014 to rush for more than 1,000 yards and earned second-team All-SEC honors.

The 5-foot-11 ¾ , 225-pound halfback sustained a foot injury in the spring of 2015 and missed the entire season. Williams decided not to return to Arkansas and came out early for the 2016 NFL draft.

According to Arkansas coaches at the time, many teams passed on Williams fearing his foot injury may derail his NFL career. The Buffalo Bills selected him in the fifth round when many, including myself, felt he was projected as a late second- or early third-round pick.

In my 2016 NFL draft report, I had Williams rated as the 61st best overall player available.

As a rookie, Williams rushed for 94 yards on 27 carries and scored one touchdown for the Bills.

Williams was released by the Bills in September 2017, and the Denver Broncos signed him to their practice squad.

Last season in mid-November, the Saints signed Williams off the Broncos’ practice squad and was reunited with former Arkansas running backs coach Joel Thomas, now with the Saints.

Williams fully understands with the four-game suspension of Mark Ingram to start this season the opening is there for him to seize and prove he is a good NFL running back.

“For me it is all about focus, understanding the playbook and knowing what to do on each and every snap,” Williams said. “With all the talent the team has at running back every rep counts and every opportunity counts, and I want to make the best of it. I run every play like it is my last carry.”

One of the things I noticed different from Williams in his time in Buffalo was that he is a more confident runner and has better field vision.

“I think some of that is understanding the NFL better, knowing the system here in New Orleans and knowing you can’t kick everything out to the corner,” Williams said. “You have to let your running instincts take over, hit it up hard inside and keep your legs churning. The speed of the NFL is different than college and so you have to trust what you see and then hard-charge up the field.”

One thing that stood out about Williams at Arkansas was that in 2014 he forced 44 missed tackles, and while his physical nature is a strong trait, his ability to make people miss in space is also a big plus.

“No question the ability to read a block and then sidestep a tackler is important and it has always been a big part of my game,” Williams said. “Everyone talked about my physical running style, but I feel as though my balance and my ability to make the first man miss as a runner or a receiver coming out of the backfield is part of my game. I want to make the very most of my opportunities and show the Saints I am a complete player as a runner, receiver and blocker.”

THE VILLE CONNECTION

Saints outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott had a strong opening game with 2½ sacks and a strip of the football against the Jaguars.

The former Toledo University standout was an undrafted free agent who has seen action for the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys.

The 6-3, 255 pounder is an interesting player since he is really best suited to be a 3-4 edge pass rusher, but he also has some experience playing in coverage.

The unusual detail is that Elliott played at Glenville High School in Ohio, as well as Saints teammates cornerback Marshon Lattimore, safety/special teams ace Justin Hardee and veteran wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr.

That’s pretty unusual to have four players from one high school on one team..

THE DB STATE

At this time last year, LSU cornerback Greedy Williams was a backup to Kevin Toliver II. But when Toliver was suspended for the season-opener vs. Brigham Young, Williams took over the starting spot and never looked back.

The former standout at Calvary Baptist Academy led the SEC with six interceptions, and his 1.3 passes defended per game were amongst the best in the SEC and the nation. Williams earned first-team All-SEC honors and is now considered the best cover cornerback in college football. He is the highest rated cornerback for the 2019 NFL draft.

At the same time last year, former Thibodaux High standout Amik Robertson was entering his freshman season at Louisiana Tech. After having a tremendous prep career, it didn’t take long for the Bulldog coaches to realize just how good he was. Robertson started every game as a freshman and had a team-leading five interceptions.

The 5-9, 178 pound cornerback was a first-team Freshman All-American in 2017 and is considered one of the elite cover cornerbacks in college football.

For everything you read today about early college depth charts just look at what occurred for these two cornerbacks from “The Boot” in 2017.

NFL analyst Mike Detillier is based in Raceland.