Niagara Gazette — He had a promising rookie season, in which he had an interception and forced fumble in starting six of nine games. Williams did miss five games because of a chest injury.
He took a step back last year, despite starting 10 of 11 games. Struggling in coverage, he finished with no interceptions, was credited with just seven passes defended, and missed five games after hurting his right knee.
"I think it was one of those years that tested my character: how I handle bad situations; how I handle adversity," Williams said. "I know what it feels like to be on the upside and also the downside. I've pretty much matured and became a veteran player, I can say."
Pettine has faith in Williams, and said the positional switch had nothing to do with performance or Byrd's absence.
"It's a move we were going to make," Pettine said.
In his previous stint as the New York Jets defensive coordinator, Pettine had Williams listed as a safety coming out of college. He also noted that Williams' 6-foot, 200-pound frame combined with his sideline-to-sideline range is better suited for the defense he's installing in Buffalo.
"If you can have a safety that has corner skills, that to me is ideal," Pettine said, noting the NFL is trending toward more of a passing than running style of offense. "I would sacrifice the ability to be a 'box player,' a thicker guy and a thumper type: I'd sacrifice that for the cover skills any day."
He's pleased with how quickly Williams has picked up the new position: "I'd say he's ahead of schedule." And Pettine noted Williams can now fill two roles — safety and cornerback — in a defense that demands versatility from its players.
The Bills' defensive backfield is young and unsettled, especially minus Byrd, a four-year starter. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the team's 2011 first-round pick, is the only other returning starter.