Pretty much everyone expected the New York Giants to be active at the trade deadline, but it was expected that they would be sellers and try to move on from high-priced veterans.
What wasn’t expected was that the Giants would be buyers at the deadline and make one of the splashiest deals of any team. Making the move doubly surprising was that the Giants traded with the New York Jets for Leonard Williams. This was just the second time in history that the intra-stadium rivals executed a trade and defensive tackle is arguably position of greatest strength for the Giants with Dalvin Tomlinson, B.J. Hill, Dexter Lawrence, and Olsen Pierre already giving them a stout rotation.
Surprising and unexpected though it may be, Williams is now a Giant and preparing to play his first game in Blue. Let’s go to his tape and see what he brings to the Giants’ defensive line.
Team: New York Jets
Draft Information: 2015, Round 1, No. 6 overall
DOB, Age: 6/20/94, 25 years old
Pro Positions: iDL
Game Date: NYJ vs. BUF (9/8/19, Wk 1)
Game Date: NYJ at NE (9/22/19, Wk 3)
Game Date: NYJ at PHI (10/6/19, Wk 4)
Game Date: NYJ vs. DAL (10/13/19, Wk 5)
Career: 71 games, 70 starts - 240 tackles, 32 tackles for loss, 17.0 sacks, 90 quarterback hits, 2 forced fumbles
Season: 7 games, 7 starts - 20 tackles, 0 tackles, 0 sacks, 5 quarterback hits, 0 forced fumbles
Interior defensive lineman, 3-4 DE or 4-3 DT, athleticism, stunts, and effort
Double teams, maintaining leverage,
A regular starter as an interior defensive lineman in a multiple front which will scheme him one-on-one match-ups.
Leonard Williams offers a rare blend of size, length, and athleticism for an interior defensive lineman. He has a good first step, the agility to be an effective looper on stunts and twists, and enough athleticism to not look out of place dropping in zone blitzes. Williams is capable of a good to great first step when he times the snap correctly and is able to deliver a jolt to opposing blockers and take the early initiative.
As a run defender, Williams is at his best when he is able to match up one-on-one with blockers and maintain his leverage. In those cases he is a capable defender in both one and two-gap schemes, where he is able to create separation and use his quickness to discard the blocker and make a play on the running back going through his gap.
Despite having intriguing athletic traits and a variety of pass rush moves — bull rush, push-pull, arm over (swim), and club-rip moves were all on display — Williams wins primarily through effort as a pass rusher. When Williams is able to get the early initiative as a one-gap penetrator is he is able to disrupt the backfield. His athleticism and mobility also show up in stunts and twists, where his agility allows him to quickly redirect across the defensive front and exchange gaps with other defenders.
However, he can also get tied up hand-fighting with opposing linemen and struggle to shed blocks quickly. The biggest limiting factor for Williams is the occasional tendency to let his base narrow and hips rise early in the snap. It robs him of his leverage and prevents him from bringing his full athletic traits to bear. When that happens, he can lose one-on-one matchups as both a run defender and pass rusher despite his length, power, and agility. But while those issues are noticeable and impact his production, Williams only routinely struggles against double teams, where his inconsistent base and leverage keep him from being able to stand up to blockers.
Williams will be best used as a defensive end in a three-man front who moves inside to play defensive tackle in four-man fronts. Coaches should work to minimize his exposure to double-teams, but his ability to move in space as well as go forward open possibilities for zone blitzes as well as games along the line of scrimmage.