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With the Jets on their bye week, we're going to review some of the Jets players, looking in detail at their season so far and what to expect from them coming out of the bye week. We'll look at a mixture of players who've exceeded expectations and some who have been disappointing so far. We continue today with a look at defensive lineman Leonard Williams.
Expectations prior to the season
When the Jets drafted Quinnen Williams with the third overall pick in April's draft, the choice was made with a view to pair the rookie with fifth-year veteran and former Pro Bowler Leonard Williams. The hope was that, as a tandem, one would be able to free up the other to make plays. The veteran Williams was coming off a year where his production was inconsistent, as he often had to deal with double teams.
The Jets' plans to unleash the Williams duo on the rest of the NFL got waylaid in training camp when each of them was injured. Quinnen hurt his calf and Leonard was sidelined with hip inflammation. As a result, neither played much in preseason and they only played one game together.
The Jets rested both players for the final preseason game, in hopes that they would both be healthy for the season opener, but the rookie injured his ankle against the Bills and hasn't played since.
Stats over the first three weeks
- Three games played (three starts)
- 10 tackles
- No sacks
- No passes defended
- No tackles for loss
- Three quarterback hits
So far, Williams' statistical production has been underwhelming as the Jets have fallen to 0-3 to start the year. Media and the Jets fanbase have been critical of his play so far and there have even been some suggestions that the Jets might look to trade him.
Ask defensive line coach Andre Carter, though, and you'll get a much different take. Carter said earlier this week that the Jets are "proud" of his performance so far this year and stated that Williams has disrupted the passer 10 times even though he hasn't registered a sack.
It's true that Williams has been generating some interior rush, albeit that he hasn't had much in the way of what you'd call quality pressure.
For example, one of his three credited quarterback hits came on the play where the Bills threw the winning touchdown pass in Week One and another came on a 3rd-and-long conversion in the Browns game.
His overall pressure rate is also slightly down on his usual numbers, although there is one small caveat to that. Williams has played almost exclusively on the inside this year, whereas last year he lined up as an edge defender for almost 200 snaps. Generally speaking, pressure rates for interior linemen tend to be lower because interior linemen automatically will see more double teams.
There have been examples of this too, with Williams often being doubled while someone else beats a single block to generate the pressure. The Jets aren't paying him more than $14 million in 2019 just to occupy blocks though.
In the last game, Williams had a costly penalty as he was called for illegal use of the hands on a play where he penetrated the pocket to knock Tom Brady down. This negated a stop on 3rd-and-16 and gave New England a fresh set of downs. Those types of negative plays will stand out to anyone looking to bash him for a lack of impact plays.
Even as a run defender, Williams hasn't graded out too well, although he has been in on seven stops close to the line of scrimmage over the three games. A missed tackle and a holding penalty that appeared to have been wrongly attributed to him have impacted his effectiveness.
Expectations after the bye
Regardless of the comments from the coaching staff, the slow start has created added pressure on Williams, who is in his contract year. While his disruptiveness is well-documented, Jets fans are losing patience with his lack of impact plays.
Those fans were spoiled by some excellent defensive line play from players like Muhammad Wilkerson, Damon Harrison and Sheldon Richardson in the early part of this decade and are beginning to question if the contributions Williams makes are enough to warrant the big-money deal he's sure to command as a pending free agent.
Coming out of the bye, the Jets will hope to have Quinnen Williams back and this should improve the overall performance of the defensive line, as well as give Leonard Williams a chance to generate more statistical production. If this doesn't happen, then the chances of the Jets seeking to cut ties with the veteran will increase dramatically.