Leonard Williams New York Giants’ highest-graded player, according to PFF

Anthony Rivardo
New York Giants, Leonard Williams
Anthony Rivardo (edit)

The New York Giants‘ defense has far outplayed the offense so far this season. The Giants are a putrid 1-7, but they have lost their last four games by a total of 7 points. New York is keeping games close, but their offense has not been getting the job done in crunch time.

Patrick Graham’s defense is allowing only 24.9 points per game and 354.8 yards per game. New additions Blake Martinez and James Bradberry have been big difference-makers in the Giants’ new defensive scheme. But so far, the best player on the Giants’ defense, according to Pro Football Focus, has been a familiar and controversial face: Leonard Williams.

The New York Giants acquired Leonard Williams via trade last October for a third-round and a fifth-round draft picks. This move was heavily criticized as the Giants made this trade while out of the playoff race. Williams was also an impending free agent, making this trade feel like a win-now move when most fans felt the Giants should be rebuilding.

To make matters worse, the Giants and Williams were unable to come to an agreement on a long-term contract in the offseason. New York placed the franchise tag on Leonard Williams. This gave Leonard, essentially, one year to prove that he deserves a lucrative contract extension. So far, he has proven that he does indeed deserve to be locked up long-term.

Leonard Williams Stats and Highlights

Leonard Williams has performed as one of the NFL’s best interior defensive linemen in 2020. Williams has earned an 80.3 overall Pro Football Focus grade at the midpoint of this season, the highest grade on the Giants. Through 8 weeks, Williams has racked up 24 total pressures, tied for the seventh-most of all interior defensive linemen. But Williams has also been stout against the run, posting an 80.8 run defense grade, the fourth-best in the NFL at his position.

Leonard Williams has definitely improved his pass-rushing this season. Last year, Williams received plenty of criticism for totaling just 0.5 sack in 2019. Through 8 games, Williams has already blown that number out of the water, gaining 4 quarterback sacks so far this season. “Big Cat” also has 29 combined tackles and 9 quarterback hits this year.

Fans were highly critical of Dave Gettleman for making this trade last season. While fans will continue to criticize the general manager (whose seat is flaming hot at the moment), they are unlikely to criticize Leonard Williams anymore. Leonard has been excellent for the New York Giants and seems to slowly be turning into a fan favorite. The Giants should make a it a top priority to extend Leonard Williams this offseason.