Bent, theJetsBlog.com Follow on Twitter
Over the next week or so, we're going to take an in-depth look at the rookie season for each of the Jets' 2019 rookie class. We begin today with a look at the third overall pick, defensive tackle Quinnen Williams.
When the Jets drafted Williams with the third pick in last April's draft, some questioned the wisdom in selecting yet another interior lineman.
The team was already slated to pay over $14 million to Leonard Williams who was playing out the fifth-year option on his rookie deal. In addition, they had already drafted two interior linemen in 2018 and given a decent-sized contract to Henry Anderson, so depth was not a concern.
With a few edge rushers available at that point, the Jets could have addressed a long-term need, and a few of the players they passed on went on to have solid rookie seasons, led by Josh Allen, who registered 10.5 sacks for the Jaguars.
However, Williams was considered a blue-chip prospect and potentially the best defensive player available. That possibility was too tempting for the Jets to pass up, but at the end of a rookie year where he posted just 28 tackles and 2 1/2 sacks, plenty of people are starting to ask if they made a mistake.
Although Williams' production was something of a disappointment, he still had a solid year and made a lot of impressive plays. He just didn't make as much of a consistent impact or as many impact plays as you'd expect to see from such a highly touted pick. Nevertheless, he deserved received a lot of playing time and was a key contributor on a defense that played very well, especially in the second half of the season.
The most impressive aspect of Williams' season was that, following the trade of Leonard Williams to the Giants, the defensive line didn't miss a beat as it ended up with the number two run defense in the league. The rookie's production could have been expected to slide after the trade, because he'd be required to take on more double teams. However, he continued to play at a consistent level.
Prior to the game against the Raiders, which the Jets would go on to win in a surprising blowout, Jon Gruden cited Williams as the main reason for the Jets' success against the run, even though he wasn't necessarily generating impressive statistical production.
It was a different story in terms of the pass rush, with Williams held to just 2 1/2 sacks. Furthermore, two of those sacks came on plays where he was completely unblocked, although in each case he exhibited explosive qualities in closing on the quarterback to make the play.
Sack numbers are not the only way to measure pass rushing contributions because disruptiveness can create opportunities for other players or generate consistent pressure. Williams' pressure numbers weren't particularly impressive either, but it is worth noting that he generated pressure at a more significant rate after midseason and that his pressure percentages ended up similar to those generated by Muhammad Wilkerson in his rookie season.
Williams could have had a couple more sacks but let the quarterback slip from his grasp in the pocket. If he finishes more consistently next season, you can expect that number to rise, even though he'll continue to be used in a nose tackle role that typically attracts double teams.
The most impressive attribute Williams exhibited in 2019 was his strength. He had very few negative plays where he was blocked off the line and some impressive plays where he penetrated into the backfield by driving his man back off his spot.
Williams showed he has the ability to work off blocks at Alabama but wasn't as successful at this in his rookie season. However, there were flashes throughout the year that suggested he was figuring out new ways of how to do this against NFL-level opposition.
The rookie also didn't display much explosiveness in the first half of the year, but that may be partially attributable to the ankle injury that caused him to miss three games. The coaching staff was reportedly surprised he was able to return as soon as he did because it was a serious high ankle sprain, so it stands to reason that he probably wasn't at 100 percent. Later in the year, he showed signs of being more explosive.
Given the reasons for his lack of impact plays and the progress he showed as his role expanded over the course of the season, the Jets will be confident that Williams can produce more next season if he can stay healthy. If he can make a jump similar to the one Wilkerson did in his second season, he'll be a big difference maker in 2020.