Giants’ veteran defender finally feeling comfortable in Wink Martindale’s defensive system

New York Giants defensive end Leonard Williams (99) celebrates a defensive stop during the first half against the Washington Commanders at MetLife Stadium

The New York Giants pulled off a 14-7 victory over the Washington Commanders this week as their defense dominated, limiting Washington to just 273 total yards. Amidst this outstanding defensive performance, veteran defensive end Leonard “Big Cat” Williams emerged as a crucial player for Big Blue to earn the victory.

Leonard Williams has been struggling in Wink Martindale’s defensive system

Over the past two seasons, Williams has struggled to maintain the high expectations set upon him. In 2021, Williams signed a sizeable $63 million contract after having a breakout campaign the season prior. Under former defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, Williams accumulated 11.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, and 30 quarterback hits.

However, under current DC Don “Wink” Martindale, Williams hasn’t been able to produce on the field. In 18 games under Martindale, Williams has only been able to generate three sacks and has been invisible for the first six weeks of the season. With a potential contract extension looming, the question of whether or not the Giants need to move on from Williams started to emerge.

When asked about his poor performance so far, Williams had this to say:

“Playing in different systems definitely affects guys. Pat Graham did a good job of knowing what type of player I was and putting me in the right position, but he also played a little bit of favoritism with me in a way. I was always one of P.G.’s favorite guys, whereas in this system Dex did really well, so he’s one of the favorites. It’s not bad at all. It’s a good thing. I love to see Dex thriving, and I’ll take what I get and make the best of it.”

Leonard Williams told Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post

Big Cat shows up in the Giants’ big win

Williams did in fact make the best of his opportunities and delivered his best game of the season against the Commanders. He constantly pressured Washington QB Sam Howell, contributing to a disruptive performance by the Giants’ defensive line.

His stat line included two tackles, one sack, and two quarterback hits. However, it was his game-changing blocked field goal in the fourth quarter that truly turned the tide of the game.

Contributing to every facet of the game

Early in the fourth quarter with the G-Men leading 14-7, Washington lined up for a 27-yard field goal attempt. Williams burst through the center guard gap and managed to block the field goal, preventing the Commanders from cutting the deficit to just four points. This pivotal moment showcased Williams’ ability to seize opportunities and make game-changing plays when it matters most.

Williams’ standout performance against the Commanders undoubtedly demonstrated why he earned his contract in 2021 and why he deserves to stay in the Big Apple. Regardless of whether Big Blue ever planned to move on from Williams or not, one thing is certain: Big Cat’s value has skyrocketed. As the Giants continue their season campaign, Williams will only continue to build on his momentum and play a pivotal role in their success moving forward.

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