New York Giants defensive lineman Leonard Williams has his contract. And now, as he enters his second full season as a Giant, he's looking to build on the career year he had last season, not just on the field but off it as well.
"I want to continue to improve my ability," he said Wednesday. "I want to continue to put my best foot forward and bring the best I can to this team. I’m not focused on numbers. I’m focusing on just having another great season."
Williams, one of the Giants' most controversial acquisitions given the Giants traded draft capital fto the Jets instead of waiting to sign him as a free agent, has justified the Giants' investment in him with an 11.5 sack season last year.
They've also quieted down now that Williams, who last year played on the franchise tag, no longer has to worry about his contract for the foreseeable future.
But don't expect Williams to quiet down and rest on his laurels. The 27-year-old defensive lineman already has a good idea of how he wants to be a better version of himself this year than he was last year.
"I think the biggest thing that I need to work on is that transition from run to pass, reading stuff a little bit quicker," he said. "I think that just comes with more recognition of the game, more film study and more experience in this game. Like I said, I’m going into year seven now, I think those things are starting to come to me faster now and just picking up on that recognition to make it that much faster."
Having a second season in the same defensive system will undoubtedly help Williams reach his goals and the defense's goals.
"I think that’s the most important, is just build on what we did last year good and eliminate what we did last year not so good," Williams said.
"That’s the most important part of going into this year and it starts today. You know, we’re doing a good job of watching film from last year and critiquing what we didn’t do so well and continue to build and sharpen our toolbox on what we did do well. I think that’s big."
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Williams insisted that he wasn't focused on his contract situation last year. Now that he has the big contract signed, sealed, and delivered, he's determined not to let the outside expectations that come with such a high salary be a distraction.
"You just really want to focus on the grind, focus on your specific task, your specific ability and what you can bring to the team and how you can make the team better," he said.
In addition to improving his game on the field, Williams said he'd like to take on more of a leadership role this year.
"I think just be more vocal," he said when asked how he planned to improve as a leader. "I think I’ve always been a good leader by example, which at this point I think is the easy thing to do. And I think just stepping out of my comfort zone and being more of a vocal type of leader.
"Leading by example--I always make sure I’m on time, I always make sure I’m running and conditioned well and doing everything right that way. But having some of those younger guys, speaking to some of those younger guys and speaking to the team is something to step out of my comfort zone and be a bit better of a leader."
To help get into that groove, Williams said he's reached out to past Giants defensive linemen Justin Tuck and Michael Strahan, both of whom have enlightened Williams to the organization's defensive traditions.
"Obviously, they’ve had great defensive linemen come through here for years now. Hopefully, I’m going to be a part of that tradition for a longer time now," Williams said.