Despite Perception, Numbers Show Leonard Williams is a Dominant Pass Rusher

Giants' Leonard Williams led all NFL with 19 QB Hits

Getty Giants DL Leonard Williams gets pressure on Cowboys QB Dak Prescott

It’s safe to say that Leonard Williams is far from the most beloved acquisition that Dave Gettleman has made during his time as team general manager. Williams’ proclamation that he should be paid as a defensive end has certainly not helped his case amongst New York Giants fans. Especially considering the fact that he produced a whopping 0.5 sack for Big Blue in 2019.

However, as we are all well aware, sacks aren’t the end-all, be-all when it comes to evaluating a pass-rusher. Recent statistics released by Pro Football Focus show that, despite his limited statistics in the sack department, Williams is actually one of the better interior defenders in all of football when it comes to putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Per PFF, Williams led all interior defensive lineman in QB hits with 19 in 2019, five more than the next closest player. Williams essentially lived in the opposition’s backfield last season, accumulating a pressure rate of 11.3%, 13th among interior d-lineman, while also ranking 11th amongst all interior d-lineman in total pressures.

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Williams Struggles to Convert Pressure into Sacks

The one downfall to Williams’ eye-popping statistics is the obvious lack of conversion. As PFF pointed out, essentially all of Williams’ high-end production comes with an asterisk next to it. While he was certainly a disruptive presence along Big Blue’s defensive front, his lack of sacks are concerning and somewhat puzzling.

Williams was just one of three interior defensive linemen a season ago to rank within the top-11 in QB pressures, yet record fewer than 4 sacks in the process.

Will Williams Put it All Together in 2020?

There are a few glaring takeaways from Williams’ 2019 output. For starters, he’s a better player than most fans give him credit for. He’ll likely never wow you with production, but he will continue to be disruptive.

Secondly, his statistics are all tagged with an interior defensive lineman designation, which should further Big Blue’s case that Williams is in fact, not a defensive end, and shouldn’t be paid as such. This is something that we at Heavy have previously pointed out, due to the fact that he was lining up from the defensive end position just 21% of the time over his seven-game stretch with the G-Men in 2019.

Lastly, Williams needs help. He’s a talented defender, and one that will make nearly any defensive-front better. Yet, if you’re relying on him to be your key cog in terms of sack production, you’ll likely be left disappointed. Unfortunately for the Giants at this time, they may be left with no other choice.

Markus Golden returning to the team is still a possibility, and one that would certainly benefit the defense as a whole. However, chances are New York’s use of the UFA Tender on the edge defender has left a sour taste in Golden’s mouth, likely motivating him to find employment elsewhere.

If Golden does not return in 2020, that leaves Kyler Fackrell, Oshane Ximines and Lorenzo Carter as Big Blue’s most “lethal” edge rushers. While they all present solid upside, the trio combined for just 10 sacks in 2019.

This means that it’s more than likely Williams will once again be leaned on heavily to get after the quarterback next season, something he’s certainly able to do. However, if you’re looking for sacks from the interior lineman, his 7.5 sacks over the past three seasons essentially tell you type of player he is and will continue to be.


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