As Leonard Williams Settles into Giants Defense, Look for His Role to Expand

Patricia Traina

New York Giants defensive lineman Leonard Williams is a likable and approachable person.

But if there had been a "Most Popular" contest this week int he lockerroom, Williams might very well have been the runaway winner.

That’s due in part to Williams’ intimate knowledge of the New York Jets, who are next up on the Giants schedule this weekend. 

Williams, a first-round pick by the Jets in 2015, said he’s been offering whatever assistance he can to teammates wanting the 411 on what to expect in a rare regular-season meeting with their MetLife Stadium neighbors.  

“Yeah, just tendencies in general. Throughout a game, how they are as a person, how they are on and off the field and stuff like that can sometimes tell you a story on how guys are when they play as well,” Williams said.

Williams is also neck-deep in the Giants playbook, as his goal is to make a more significant impact on a defense that has struggled this season. 

“I think one thing we need to do is keep trying to find ways to get him one on ones,” Bettcher said. “He had a couple of really nice one on one pass rush wins in that game.

“I think he’s a guy that as he continues to improve, the thing that he and I have talked about in his one on one pass rush stuff is building his counter, what is his pass rush counter? 

“This is a guy when you watch him, he rushes long, and he plays as tall as he is and as long as he is. Not all long guys do that. Just building what that counter is off of his rush. We need to help him out and try to give him some one-on-one opportunities.”

Whatever it is that Bettcher and his staff have come up with for the 25-year-old Williams, the defender likes it so far.

“I feel a lot fresher and faster and more comfortable with it this week than last week,” he said. 

“Last week, not only was I learning a new defense, but I was also adjusting to new teammates, adjusting to new coaches, a new environment, all of the trade stuff happening. Even though I didn’t have to move far, it was still an adjustment, whereas this week, I feel more comfortable. The trade has already happened, and now I’m just moving forward.”

But don’t expect Williams to be so excited to face his former teammates to where he lets his emotions prevent him from playing a controlled game.

“I mean, I’m obviously excited to play against the team that I once played for, and that traded me to this team now. There’s no extra motivation than last week. I’m still with this team. I still want to win every game like I would every week. The motivation level is still the same.”

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At least now we have a rationale for the trade. He can provide insights to help the Giants defeat a 1-7 team who appears to be coming apart at the seams. A season changer for sure.