Was just wondering if you could give us some insight on Madieu Williams? Is his injury serious or are they just being real carefull with him so he gets back to 100%? Do you think by missing this much during the preseason that he might start out slow and not be up to game speed by the start of the regular season? We definately need a 100% healthy Madieu out there on Sundays, he completes our secondary. Thanks alot!
Andy (Piqua, Ohio) ANDY:**
This looks like the question of the week. From what we can gather, they're confident Williams is going to be back for the regular-season opener, and maybe sooner.
They aren't going to take any chances with a back, and from what Marvin Lewis has indicated, he's had some spasms, so I would imagine they don't want to rush him if they don't have to. He was seen running on the side during Wednesday's practice. If the Browns were eight days away instead of the Colts, you figure he'd be playing for sure, and he may any way. But why? < p="">Although timing and reps are important at any position, I'm not sure it's as important on defense as it is on offense. Here's a guy who started three different positions last year as a rookie (cornerback and both safety spots) and never looked like he was running around lost, so it's pretty clear he knows the defense and what these guys want.
Just as an aside, cornerback Deltha O'Neal missed all but the first half of the preseason opener last year with a bad ankle, didn't return until the second regular-season game, and still put in a solid season in his first year in the defense.
There's no question they need Williams. Is there any question that he is their best player on defense? The way he came flying out of the gate at training camp had people buzzing. It seemed like on nearly every play, he either had his hands on the ball or just missed it. And this was after sitting out the spring camps with a variety of knick-knacks. So that didn't hurt him, and secondary coaches Kevin Coyle and Louie Cioffi believe he has become a better player partly because he has been able to stay at free safety and focus on that spot.
Last year, the O'Neal injury forced him to switch to corner and when free safety Kim Herring got hurt in the opener in New York and didn't return for four games, Williams bounced around both safety slots. Herring has been taking some fan abuse this preseason, but then, so did future Pro Bowl cornerback Tory James last year. I'd like to see what Herring at strong (what he's used to playing) and Williams at free can do if they play together consistently. It was that combination that started the last four games of last season, when they went the last 14 quarters of the year not giving up a touchdown pass over 17 yards.
Of course, the quarterbacks were largely Drew Bledsoe, Eli Manning, Koy Detmer, and Jeff Blake, but guys like Bledsoe and Blake have hurt them in the past. With Herring and Williams in position, and Keiwan Ratliff the nickel corner, they were simply a better secondary.