Tank Williams: Bill Belichick's Secret Weapon on Defense

Mack McClurkanContributor IMarch 23, 2009

FOXBOROUGH, MA - 2008:  Tank Williams of the New England Patriots poses for his 2008 NFL headshot at photo day in Foxborough, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Getty Images)

While going over the New England Patriots' flurry of offseason signings, I failed to notice until recently that they re-signed safety Tank Williams. Williams was signed in the '08 offseason to come in and be a safety/linebacker hybrid.

There were reports last year that Williams was practicing with the linebackers and that linebacker coach Matt Patricia had made Williams a special project.

All that changed in August, though, when Williams went down with a devastating knee injury. His season was ended before it could even begin. It was a heart-breaking story for Williams, who had spent two long years trying to claw his way back from a shattered knee cap he suffered while with the Minnesota Vikings in 2006.

Most people probably don't see much significance in re-signing Williams. He's seen as damaged goods after missing two of the last three seasons because of knee injuries. Where some people see an injury-prone player, I see a player who could make a difference in '09.

I'm a native Tennessean. So I've seen plenty of Williams over the years. From 2002-2005, he was a difference maker on the Titans defense. While only adequate in coverage, Williams' ferocious tackling at the line of scrimmage helped the Titans lead the league in run defense twice. At 6'2", 223 pounds, he hits like a tank (pun intended).

He's a player who's comparable to Roy Williams, only with better coverage skills and without the Pro Bowl appearances. He can tackle and blitz well. The Pats will probably use him as a backup safety and nickle linebacker in '09 if his knees hold up.

It remains to be seen how much speed Williams has left, but the Pats were confident enough to offer him another contract.

Hopefully, Williams can help the Patriots' third-down defense, which was one of the worst in the league last year. Belichick had high hopes for Williams before the '08 season, so he must see something in the player.

Williams' re-signing also means that Patriots great Rodney Harrison's career is probably over. At 28 years old, hopefully Tank still has something left in the tank.


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