The Giants need this veteran defensive lineman to play better

New York Giants defensive end Leonard Williams (99) looks on during training camp at the Quest Diagnostics Training Facility

The New York Giants’ defense has been a disappointment through the first two weeks of the regular season. Despite putting together a great second half in Week 2 against the Cardinals, it has overall been an underwhelming first two games for Big Blue’s defensive unit. Notable players from last season have failed to live up to expectations so far, including veteran DL Leonard Williams.

Throughout his tenure with the Giants, Williams has been one of New York’s most crucial defensive players. But through the first two weeks of the 2023 season, Williams’ impact has been minimal. The Giants need Williams to improve his play.

Leonard Williams has been a ghost through the first two weeks of the season

Williams has struggled to show up on the box score stats in either of the Giants’ first two games this season. Last season, Big Blue had the veteran on the field for 75% of the team’s defensive snaps. This season, Williams has played only 57% of defensive snaps through two weeks. Not only is he struggling to make an impact, but Williams is also seeing his playing time decreased by the coaching staff.

In two games, Williams has only totaled a combined two tackles. He finished with 0 tackles recorded in Week 2, appearing to be a ghost on the field despite Big Blue’s historic comeback win. But was Williams able to make an impact separate from the box score stats?

Has Williams really been that bad?

According to Pro Football Focus, Williams was one of the Giants’ highest-graded players in their Week 2 victory. His 73.4 overall grade was the fifth-highest on the team this Sunday.

Williams totaled four pressures on Sunday, per PFF, the second-highest total of any Giants defender. Despite not recording a tackle in the game, Williams was able to apply pressure to the quarterback in Arizona. This performance is a step in the right direction after Williams failed to record a single pressure in Week 1.

The Giants’ run defense is struggling

Despite his increase in pass-rushing productivity in Week 2, Williams’ lack of tackles highlights one crucial flaw in his game: he is not making an impact in run defense. Big Blue has surrendered a staggering 136.5 rushing yards per game and five total rushing touchdowns through the first two weeks of the season. Williams and the rest of the defensive line need to step up and improve their efforts against the run before the Giants’ season runs away from them.

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