Baltimore Ravens’ free agent signing Marcus Williams should experience a seamless transition into his new defense as a traditional free safety, but his role could be more interesting under defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald.
So far, Williams is widely considered the team’s best signing in free agency, and a surprising one at that. The former New Orleans Saints safety joined Baltimore on a deal many believed was an absolute steal, and the young star is set to make an immediate impact in 2022.
Where exactly will Williams fit in the Ravens’ backfield?
PFF’s Seth Galina took a look at the most interesting scheme fits signed in free agency and had Williams potentially thriving in a new-look Baltimore defense led by Mike Macdonald:
"“Even though he played in the deep middle often, the New Orleans Saints would rotate him back from more disguised pre-snap alignments. He also performed very well in half-field or quarters roles, earning the fourth-highest grade over the past three seasons there.The Ravens heading in this direction schematically is perfect for Williams, as he can stay in a scheme that is at least similar from a pre-snap perspective to the one in New Orleans as opposed to the one under Martindale.”"
Under former defensive coordinator Don Martindale, the Ravens developed one of the most blitz-heavy defenses in the league, but that could now change.
Baltimore Ravens’ new defensive scheme can maximize Marcus Williams’ efficiency
Macdonald, who spent the 2021 season as the Michigan Wolverines‘ defensive coordinator, preferred more “two-high safety looks pre-snap and much more zone coverage overall” in stark contrast to Martindale’s defensive schemes of years prior.
His 30 percent blitz rate is much lower than the Ravens’ 50 percent blitz rate in 2019 and 2020 combined, and there’s reason to believe Baltimore may see a few changes as to where they position their safeties on the field.
As Galina notes above, Macdonald’s defensive scheme shares more in common with that of the Saints than that of Martindale’s and could particularly benefit Williams, who has consistently ranked as one of the best deep safeties in football.
Williams finished his 2021 campaign with the Saints with the sixth-highest coverage grade (77.5) and fits the mold of a true free safety, something the Ravens haven’t had in a while.
Williams won’t be super effective playing down in the box, but he can display his talents in pass coverage all across the field, much like how he was utilized in New Orleans.
With a fortified secondary in Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, and now Marcus Williams, the Ravens should be able to disrupt even the best passing offenses in 2022.
The upcoming season serves as a fresh start for many formerly injured Ravens players, but it also gives Marcus Williams the opportunity to flourish on his new team. Mike Macdonald, among other coaches, will make sure Williams’ special skills don’t go to waste.