K'Waun Williams had one goal one year ago at this time: Gain enough notice to earn a look at Cleveland Browns training camp.
He has bigger goals for 2015.
“I want to play every game this year,” Williams said.
Because in the games he played last season, he was extremely effective.
In many ways Williams epitomizes the kind of player that Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine like. Undrafted, unheralded, trying to earn an invite to camp after signing on a tryout basis, then make a team that had established starters at cornerback and a top 10 draft pick at the position.
What did Williams do?
He not only made the team, he beat out Justin Gilbert for the Browns nickel back spot. And he played extremely well — to the point that Joe Haden called Williams “one of the best nickel backs I’ve ever seen.”
Williams played a smart and aggressive style that fit into Pettine’s defense. ProFootballFocus.com rated him the 13th best corner in the league -- though his 341 snaps were by far the fewest among the top 30 corners.
But that aggressiveness also led to injuries, including two concussions. He wound up missing four games. Williams this offseason dedicated himself to increasing strength and put on eight pounds.
“Just trying to stay a step ahead,” he said.
“He’s one of the guys this spring that if you kind of had to rate the guys that have taken a big leap from the previous year, K’Waun is up there,” coach Mike Pettine said. “A lot of it’s just a credit to him. He took that time from January to April.
“You could see he looks different physically. He’s bigger, but he’s leaner. He’s moving better. “
Do the injuries concern him?
“Not so much because I go out there and (play) my heart out,” he said. “It’s football, injuries are going to happen, but I’m just trying to prevent them.”
Haden and free agent signee Tramon Williams will leave the summer work as the starters at corner. Given the way K'Waun Williams played last season, he has to have the advantage in any competition with Gilbert for the nickel spot. Gilbert will have to seize the job if wins the nickel spot.
“You have to play with a chip on your shoulder,” Williams said. “After every play you make they say ‘undrafted.’ That’s the first thing they tag you with.
”So, I just play with it and try to prove that anyone can make it in this league. If you have heart and you play hard you can make it on our team.”