Player Profile | Leonard Williams, Defensive Lineman

Gene Clemons

2019 Season Rewind

Leonard Williams' 2019 season was broken up into two sections. His first seven games were spent with the New York Jets for whom he recorded 20 tackles (eight solo) and five quarterback hits.

The Jets decided to part ways with Williams, sending him to the other side of the stadium with the Giants for a third-round draft pick. In his eight games with the Giants, he amassed 25 tackles (13 solo tackles), 11 quarterback hits, a forced fumble, and a half-sack.

His 736 defensive snaps were a far cry from the 880 snaps he averaged during his previous three seasons, so there's no wonder why his statistics were down.

There's no denying that 2019 has made people re-evaluate who Leonard Williams is as a football player. Is he a defensive lineman capable of being an elite pass rusher, or is he a versatile defensive lineman more adept at stopping the run and being part of a unified pass rush?

When he was drafted, many Jets fans and probably the front office believed they were getting an elite-level pass rusher who could sack the quarterback from the interior or exterior.

Instead, it seems that Williams is more of a jack of all trades master of none. His versatility helped bolster a Giants run defense that was porous in 2019 and gave breath to other linemen to be used at positions where they could shine.

Looking Ahead

Williams signed his franchise tag back in late April, ensuring that he will at least be a Giant for the 2020 season. It also means that they were able to get an elite defensive lineman with a third-round pick, which is what the 2020 cost was to trade for Williams.

Williams knows that he is playing for a long-term deal since he and the Giants have been unable to come to terms on a long-term contract. While both sides still have until July 15 to get something done, it would be surprising at this point if that happens given the uncertainty of the 2021 salary cap and if it even pays to sign him long term to a deal not knowing how if the season will unwind as expected.

But assuming it does, this season, Williams will get an opportunity to be the glue that holds the defensive front seven together. Because of his versatility across the defensive line, there is a chance that you could see him play in every subpackage.

He will undoubtedly see snaps out wide and as a three-technique, but he could see snaps as a nose as well. Whether it is heavy packages or pass rush specific lineups, Williams will fit. He will be s very important part of defensive coordinator Patrick Graham's system and the defense's ability to morph and adjust to whatever style of offense they encounter.

For Williams, the focus will be on showing the form that allowed him to collect over 60 tackles a season with the Giants and get to the quarterback five-plus times in 2016 and 2018. If he can do that, he will show his value not only to the Giants but to every franchise in the NFL.

Teams need defensive linemen who can be comfortable wearing multiple hats. When you think about Williams and what he does for a defensive line as well as his ability to contribute on special teams, there's no doubt that he will be sought after by many teams. Giants fans hope that it will equal success in New York. 

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