It’s going to take Giants defensive lineman Leonard Williams a little time to get used to wearing Giants blue after having dressed almost daily in Jets green.
But that’s a small price for the 25-year-old Williams to pay considering his excitement over being with the Giants, the team that gave up a third-round draft pick in next year’s draft and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2021.
“It's a fresh start,” Williams said as he stood before his new locker in the corner of the Giants locker room.
“New locker room, new teammates, new coaches, everything like that. It's a chance to show everybody over here what I got and prove to my new teammates what I have.”
What Williams has brought, so far, according to teammates and head coach Pat Shurmur, is a willingness to keep his head down and get to work.
“I think he will fit in nicely with us,” said inside linebacker and defensive captain Alec Ogletree. “He is a talented player, and we hope he comes in and helps us win games. You can see he is a big guy and he has produced in the league. And that’s what you want.”
Ogletree believes that Williams can be an instant contributor to the defense.
“It’s not like he is a rookie, he’s been in the league,” he said. “He’s been in a couple of different defenses, he understands what it takes to learn the defense and be ready to play, and I think he will do a good job of that.
“That takes a little bit of studying on his part and also guys communicating with him, just helping him along and speed up the process. For him, it’s 'get after the passer.' There are only so many ways you can tell a guy to rush the passer. Some of the language stuff he has to catch up with, but for the most part, he’ll be doing the same thing he’s been doing, trying to get after the passer.”
It helps that Williams played under Todd Bowles with the Jets. Bowles, of course, once worked with current Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher when the two were in Arizona.
Although there are differences in the way both men ran their respective defenses, there are also enough similarities to give Williams confidence about hitting the ground running with the Giants.
“I think it should be a little bit easier to pick it up since I've played in the defense for a little bit. And I still have some of the younger guys on the D-line still helping me out with some of the calls when I don't know them. They've been doing a good job of inviting me in and showing me the way.”
“He’s played on the center, he’s played on the guard, he’s played on the tackle, he’s played on the tight end. He’s multiple from that standpoint,” Shurmur said.
“He has great length, he plays extremely hard, he uses his hands well. Again, because he’s been in a kind of a five-on-the-line system in the past, it’ll help him get up to speed quicker.”
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Since entering the league in 2015, Williams has recorded 223 pressures, which include 17 sacks, while adding 148 stops for zero or negative yardage.
His best season as a pass rusher came in 2016, his second in the league when he recorded 7.0 sacks.
But while sacks are always the ultimate goal, Williams hasn’t exactly been a slough in the pressures department.
“Sometimes it’s just little things that people don’t see,” Williams said of his deceiving numbers. “Like when we played Tom Brady and he gets the ball out fast, as everyone knows, and then there was one time I got to him, and he got rid of the ball, and it was intentional grounding, so that could’ve been a sack.
“Then, the same thing with the Jaguars last week, I had a sack, and it got taken away because of defensive holding. So, it’s just like, I don’t want to make excuses or call out penalties or anything like that, but I am getting the pressure, I am getting there, it’s just a matter of when it clicks, it’s going to click.”
Shurmur agreed that getting pressure isn’t as underrated as some would like to think.
“Getting pressure is a good thing,” he said. “He’s a guy that can get pressure, and I think that’s an important thing.”
Besides a pass-rushing ability, it’s his versatility that should allow the coaching staff to use him in a variety of different ways.
“That’s something the coaches talked about that they were excited about having me here,” Williams said. “They’ve seen me play nose, they’ve seen me play 3-technique, they’ve seen me play defensive end, stand-up, all around the d-line. They seemed pretty excited about that.”
“We’re going to use him where we see fit,” Shurmur added. “He’ll be in that rotation immediately, playing, as I mentioned, either on the center, on the guard, the tackle or the tight end. I think that’s where his versatility will help us.”
With the Giants, who already have another big body in rookie Dexter Lawrence playing a lot of snaps, there’s a good chance that Williams won’t see as many double-team blocks as he did while with the Jets.
That too has Williams itching to get going.
“Not even just double teams, but just the excitement of being with all these young, talented D-linemen is pretty exciting,” he said.
“I’ve watched them on film, and I’ve gone over some of the defense with the D-line coach. They bring a lot to the table. They’re big and strong in the run game, and they also can get after it in the pass-rushing game. And then they’re a young, talented group, so this is my first time being one of the older guys in the group, and it’s pretty exciting.”