When linebacker Jacquian Williams was forced to the sideline after nine games with a concussion that ended his season, he led the New York Giants in tackles. He ended up third on the team with 78, behind Jameel McClain (116) and Antrel Rolle (87).
On its face, that would mean the loss of their leading tackler should have been a crippling blow to an already-struggling Giants defense. Yet, that defense played its best football after Williams was sidelined with rookie Devon Kennard and veteran Mark Herzlich playing much larger roles.
So, what do we make of Williams? Has the 26-year-old four-year veteran finally developed into an impact linebacker who should be part of the Giants defense going forward? Is Williams really part of the problem for a defense that wasn't good enough, an undisciplined player who makes a ton of tackles by using his athleticism to chase down plays from behind after making a mistake that allowed a big play to begin with?
Williams, a sixth-round pick in 2011, is a free agent. Do the Giants try to keep him, or do they let him find a new employer this off-season? How you answer that question depends on how you answer the previous ones.
Williams' 78 tackles in 2014 matched his career high, which he set in 16 games as a rookie. At mid-season, linebackers coach Jim Herrmann said Williams, a part-time player his first three seasons, "has taken a giant step forward because he's a three-down player now. He's very effective on first down, second down and third down."
Valentine's View: Cut Williams. In my view, despite Herrmann's praise Williams was part of the problem on a defense that just didn't show enough discipline, didn't stick to its assignments, didn't make enough plays by having players simply do what they are supposed to do or be where they are supposed to be. Williams, in my view, is a "chase" linebacker. A guy who makes too many of his plays down field running things down from behind, not an impact linebacker who makes his plays at the line of scrimmage.
Pro Football Focus credited Williams with 25 'stops' in 571 snaps, an average of one every 22.8 plays. PFF defines a 'stop' as a play that can be considered an offensive failure. Kennard averaged a stop every 14.7 snaps, and Herzlich had one every 17.7 snaps. To me, that's clear proof that the linebackers made more plays without Williams than they did with him. Kennard had 4.5 sacks in 338 snaps. Williams has two sacks in four seasons.
It is clear to everyone that the Giants need to get better on defense next season. The Giants may well disagree, in fact I would guess odds are that they probably will disagree, but it says here that keeping Williams does not help them accomplish that.
Vote in the poll and let us know what you think, Giants fans.