Trading for Leonard Williams was one of the most polarizing moves Dave Gettleman made for the NY Giants, but he’s starting to live up to his hype in 2020.
Listen; I will never be able to make peace with the way NY Giants GM Dave Gettleman went about acquiring defensive lineman Leonard Williams. Giving up meaningful draft assets (a 2020 third-rounder and a 2021 5th) for a player that was due to be a free agent for a 2-6 football team never sense on any level.
However, Leonard Williams is on the NY Giants in 2020 – and likely beyond if Gettleman somehow manages to keep his job – so I truly hope he goes out and has a terrific season.
Williams didn’t help quiet any of the many detractors of the infamous 2019 trade by having an extremely underwhelming season for Big Blue in 2019 as he racked up just 0.5 sacks and 2 tackles-for-a-loss.
But so far in 2020, the former top-ten pick is starting to show why the NY Giants went out and got him in the first place as he’s finally beginning to turn his untapped potential into real football plays.
Williams has already quadrupled his 2019 sack total with 2 sacks so far in 2020, while also doubling up on his tackle-for-loss numbers with 4 in just three games. He’s been a force along the defensive line and one of the few brights spots during a miserable 0-3 start for the NY Giants.
It’s easy to notice Williams’ freakish athletic ability and strength when watching him play, which makes it all the more frustrating as to why he hasn’t been able to put it all together yet.
As seen above, Williams made a huge sack in yesterday’s 36-9 blowout loss when the game was still competitive, showing his elite get-off by bull-rushing the opposing offensive lineman and forcefully getting to 49ers QB Nick Mullens.
He’s also been a sure tackler, missing just 1 tackle while tallying 13 — most of which have come at or near the line of scrimmage. That missed tackle percentage is right in line with the rest of his career as he’s always been a solid tackler outside of his rookie season.
When Williams left USC after just three years he was thought to be one of – if not the – top prospets in the entire draft class and most were surprised that he fell to the sixth pick to the NY Jets.
After starting off his career slowly as a rookie with just 3 sacks and 7 tackles-for-loss, Williams peaked in 2015 as a sophomore, making the Pro Bowl by totaling 68 tackles (a very high number for a defensive lineman), 7 sacks, 11 tackles-for-loss, and 19 QB hits.
‘Leo’ has never had any trouble racking up QB hits as he’s totaled 105 over the span of his 6+ year career, but he’s finally been able to finish this season.
As Dave Gettleman said in his year-end presser, Williams is a guy that “buzzes around the quarterback”, but he’s never been able to surpass 8 sacks in any season, including his college days at USC.
He has only recorded more than 5 sacks once during his first six seasons — not exactly what you’re looking for out of a top-ten pick.
To be fair, he’s mostly played along the defensive line in 3/4 defenses, meaning he sees a solid amount of double teams. Yet, when you draft a player that high you expect them to be able to beat those double teams and make more plays than Williams has so far in his career.
The mammoth 6’5”, 300-pound lineman just turned 26-years-old this past June, so in theory he should just now be reaching his prime.