clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Film study: Is Nick Williams Giants’ next Austin Johnson?

Let’s look at what the veteran defensive tackle brings to the Giants

Detroit Lions v Green Bay Packers Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

The New York Giants added more veteran depth to their defensive line room with the addition this week of Nick Williams. The 32-year-old is 6-foot-4, 309 pounds. He was a seventh-round draft pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2013 out of Samford University - the Giants miss having a Samford alum on their roster.

Williams played the last two seasons with the Detroit Lions on a two-year, $10 million contract. Before that, he played two seasons with the Chicago Bears. Williams played through shoulder and knee injuries during his two seasons with Detroit. He also spent his rookie season on Injured Reserve (knee injury), and the Chiefs plucked him off Pittsburgh’s practice squad in the following season when former Bears’ head coach Matt Nagy was their quarterbacks' coach. Williams spent part of 2016 in Miami when Joe Schoen was the Director of Pro Personnel.

His most productive season was in 2019 in Chicago, where he had 21 pressures and six sacks with 42 total tackles. Last season with the Lions, he recorded 15 pressures, 27 tackles, and a half-sack. He played a career-high 622 total snaps last season with Detroit (263 as a run defender, 357 as a pass rusher, and two dropping into coverage).

It was almost a decade ago, but Williams was an impressive athlete coming out of Samford.

There are still shades of above-average athletic ability for a defensive player of his size. He does a solid overall job penetrating and attacking the half-man with active hands; he displays enough lateral agility, burst, and quickness, to win one-on-one matchups against adequate competition. He plays with a good low base pre-snap, shoots his hands quickly and with force while keying & diagnosing rushing concepts in the backfield.

Williams has a chance to be the third defensive linemen behind Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence (excluding Justin Ellis due to his presumed role). Let’s see what Nick Williams offered the Lions last season.

Nick Williams is No. 97

Run defense

Williams plays with a low wide base and does a solid overall job anchoring himself down against single blocks. He uses his 34 ⅛-inch arm length well to create space to see the running back’s intentions on a given play. Williams is also deceptively quick and times the snap well with a good club/sim combination to attack the half-man and penetrate.


2i left side of screen

Williams does a great job processing the 49ers’ personnel and diagnosing rookie quarterback Trey Lance’s intentions. Williams gets his eyes on Lance while locking the guard out and feeling his momentum shift laterally. Williams uses his strong hands and assists the guard outside while accepting his invitation into the back side B-Gap. Williams employs a subtle club/swim to create the separation, and Lance has nowhere to go with the football since Michael Brockers (90) took away the pitch man.

2i left side of screen

Williams uses a quick club/swim to split the double team attempt by the Falcons. He quickly processes the stretch zone run by reading the play side step from the offensive linemen. He creates separation against the guard before the tackle is in position to assume the block. His pad level gets high, but his quickness allows him to succeed. Williams is in position on the back side to make the tackle against Cordarrelle Patterson (84).

4T right side of screen

Williams times this two-point conversion so well with a quick club to send Brian O’Neill (75) to the ground, which forces C.J. Ham (30) to engage Williams, allowing Derrick Barnes (55) to make the tackle for a loss. This is a fantastic play by Williams in a high-leverage situation.

3T left side of screen

Williams quickly penetrates the B-Gap after seeing he was the play side defensive tackle. He steps outside while pressing vertically to account for space; he locks the guard out and forces Alexander Mattison (25) to bounce the run outside. His strength and penetration force the running back to go east & west instead of north and south.

3T right side of screen

Former Giants’ first round selection Justin Pugh (67) loses badly against Williams on this play, but James Connor (6) makes the most of nothing. The Lions align in a TITE front with Williams as the defensive end; Pugh attempts to reach and swivel his hips around Williams, but the veteran defensive tackle explodes low to high on contact, sending Pugh to the deck. In his own veteran move, Pugh surreptitiously sticks his foot underneath Williams and trips him.

4i left side of screen

Billy Turner’s (77) job is to block down and seal Williams away from this power-gap concept, but Williams wins the leverage battle and is able to get upfield through the B-Gap, despite Turner’s contact. Williams displays good balance to recollect his momentum and clog the rushing lane, leading to a negative play for the Green Bay Packers.

2T left side of screen

Williams steps outside and engages the guard with his inside hand, flashing his eyes in the backfield to see the concept. Williams’ length and strength allow him to create the necessary space to take a wide angle into the backfield and locate the running back from the backside after his teammates get there first.

At the point of attack

3T left side of screen

Positioned directly in the middle of the B-Gap, Williams fires off the line of scrimmage low to engage the tackle as he blocks down. Williams does a great job with his outside hand, pressing the Kaleb McGary (76) upward and planting his inside foot into the ground. McGary fails to move Williams, and the play is goes nowhere for the Falcons.

1T left side of screen

The Lions position Williams directly in the A-Gap as the Browns run a power-gap concept; Williams is to the back side and uses good patience holding the point of attack against J.C. Tretter (64). Williams can’t overpursue with the defense and linebackers scraping to the play side, following the backside guard. Williams shifts towards the play side but keeps his outside arm free to disengage and close Nick Chubb’s (24) cutback lanes.

4iT left side of screen

Williams steps with the right side of the offensive line towards the motioning 49ers player. Daniel Brunskill (60) has to reach Williams, who is aligned on the inside shoulder of Mike McGlinchey (4i-technique). Williams plays with good leverage while flowing outside and striking Brunskill with a long arm to create more separation as he sets outside in a laterally expanding B-Gap. Williams’ positioning forces Elijah Mitchell (25) to cutback inside, where other Lions’ defenders were waiting.

4iT right side of screen

Williams punishes Brian O’Neill on this 3rd & short handoff to C.J. Ham. O’Neill initially positions himself well to cut off Williams’ angle at the snap, but Williams fights through the hold and keeps his inside arm free. O’Neill couldn’t successfully position his hips inside of Williams, and the big defensive tackle’s power and force were too much for O’Neill to stop for that amount of time. Williams helps clean up the tackle of Ham for a negative offensive play.

Vs. Pass

Here are several pressures from the 2021 season. Some critical notes about Williams as a pass-rusher. The initial quickness combined with his ability to time the snap and find space between blockers allow him to penetrate adequately. Williams keeps his hands active, possesses solid lateral agility (for a 300+ pound DL), and is relentless in pursuit.

He had 15 pressures last season - that was the second most of his career. His ability to employ power rush moves (bull-rush/hump-move) isn’t consistent, but he can press the half-man and leverage his quickness to gain access into the pocket. Williams won’t be a consistent player for the Giants on third down if he makes the roster. Still, he has more pass-rushing upside than previous rotational defensive linemen like Danny Shelton and more of a pass-rushing profile than Justin Ellis.


Anchoring vs. double teams

Justin Ellis was added to the Giants’ roster not only for his familiarity with Martindale but also because he can effectively anchor against double teams. Williams struggles to do so consistently.

1T right side of screen

The center and guard form an ACE block on Williams and drive him off the line of scrimmage. Initially, Williams does a solid job absorbing the center and getting to his outside shoulder in preparation to handle the guard’s contact; however, once the guard makes contact, he drives Williams off-balanced despite his Williams’ ability to maintain a low wide base.

1T left side of screen

Williams is driven several yards off the line of scrimmage against this pistol read-option where Lamar Jackson (8) kept the football for a touchdown. The 32-year-old isn’t natural in these anchoring situations.

2i right side of screen

This is more of a chip-and-climb from the guard, but center Lloyd Cushenberry III does an excellent job fitting his play side hand into the breastplate of Williams. The young center re-establishes the line of scrimmage by sinking his hips while keeping his feet shading outside; Williams can’t shed the block, and Melvin Gordon (26) finds the running crease.

When moving laterally

3T left side of screen

Williams showed great resilience to make this tackle somehow, but he was tossed to the side moving laterally in an attempt to locate the running back. Lane Johnson (65) - one of the best tackles in football - chips Williams at the start of the play and sends him flying down the line of scrimmage. Williams was washed down the line of scrimmage in these 2v1 situations more often than we’d like to see when stepping laterally; it’s one of the areas of his game where he doesn’t maintain his gap, and it puts the linebackers in a precarious spot.

3T right side of screen

Against the Bears, Williams allows the DEUCE combo block to horizontally displace him after the guard climbs a bit early to locate the penetrating Alex Anzalone (34). Jason Peters (71) locates Williams’ outside shoulder and physically removes him from the play, creating a favorable alley for David Montgomery (34).

3T right side of screen

Center J.C. Tretter (64) and guard Wyatt Teller (77) are one of the best blocking duos in combo situations. Teller does an excellent job attacking the high shoulder pad of Williams with his outside arm while creating torque with his core and inside hand placement to force Williams’ upper body downward and to the outside. Williams is in a compromised position dealing with Teller. Adding Tretter to the mix just finished Williams Mortal Combat style to significantly remove the defensive lineman from the play.

2T left side of screen

Williams uses good extension to contact the guard before the tackle gets to his outside shoulder and starts to wash him down the line of scrimmage. His pad level starts to rise, and the tackle shoves him away from his rushing responsibility.

Vs. athletic centers

These two plays are more a testament to the unique footwork and movement skills of Jason Kelce (62) and Alex Mack (50). Kelce is able to swivel his hips around Williams - who is aligned as a 1T - and somehow just plant Williams to the ground, eliminating him from the play. Mack executes a great scoop block against Williams as a 3T (that’s quite a distance to cover), which allows the play side guard to climb. Great plays from both these centers against Williams.

Final thoughts

Williams has a realistic shot at making the Giants’ final roster. The top two defensive line spots are secure with Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence. Justin Ellis figures to handle nose responsibilities and be an early-down run-stuffing part of the defense. There’s space on the roster beyond those three players.

The Giants will need a third rotational player who can offer something as a pass-rusher. New York spent a fifth-round selection on D.J. Davidson (Arizona State). Davidson’s profile indicates he could be a replacement for the 31-year-old Ellis; Davidson had 11 pressures and a sack last season.

Christopher Hinton (UDFA out of Michigan) is also interesting as a run defender, but his spot on the roster is far from secure. The Giants also have UDFA out of Indiana (formerly of Ole Miss) Ryder Anderson and Joe Judge hold-over David Moa. These three could potentially make the roster with a great camp, but Williams’ will also compete against Jalyn Holmes.

The Vikings drafted Holmes out of Ohio State in the fourth round back in 2018. He played under Giants’ defensive line coach Andre Patterson. Holmes is 6-foot-5, 283 pounds; he’s a little lighter in the pants than Williams, but he has a different body type. There won’t be an abundance of roster spots open at the defensive line position, so the camp battle between these players should be fierce.

I like the idea of adding Williams to the Giants team. He has solid overall tape from last season; he’s quick to penetrate, has active hands, offers a little bit as a pass-rusher, and is an intelligent overall veteran presence. He won’t anchor or two-gap against COMBO blocks, but he’s not a complete liability as a run defender either. If he can crack the final roster, Williams has the opportunity to earn a solid snap-share in a defense that loves to rotate and keep players fresh.