New York Jets defensive end Leonard Williams aka “Big Cat” has been a fan favorite and a reliable player since being drafted in 2015. He was regarded as the best player in the class before the draft. The expectations for the DE were high right off the bat.
Williams delivered with a pro bowl appearance in his first season. He finished with 3.0 sacks, 63 tackles, 7 TFLs, and 20 QB Hits. Williams was disruptive and immediately made an impact. He continued that in his sophomore campaign with 7.0 sacks, 68 tackles, 11 TFLs, and 19 QB Hits (Pro Football Reference).
Then in 2018, his production dipped with 47 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 3 TFLs, and 25 QB Hits. It became apparent that the double teams were hurting him and he needed back up. The Jets brought in Henry Anderson who had a phenomenal year but didn’t really help Williams much.
Leonard put up good pressure numbers but continued to lack his dominant presence shown earlier on when he had back up. This was evidenced in his 5.0 sacks, 42 tackles, 11 TFLs, and 20 QB hits. This seemed to be Williams ceiling with the Jets if backup never showed up.
Then the Jets took the monster from Alabama, Quinnen Williams. Just like that, the Jets formed a Williams 2x duo that will wreak havoc and kept Henry Anderson along as well.
It has become evident Anderson and Quinnen Williams will be big pieces on the defensive line for the future. Leonard Williams is in jeopardy, however. The Jets aren’t going to bring him back if he disappoints this upcoming season.
This is a contract year and without a doubt the biggest year of Williams’ career. A fork in the road one might call it. Two directions, two results, and one season to prove his worth once and for all.
Will he step up and show what he can do and earn himself an extension or will he disappoint and end up in a situation with his future up in the air? There is no doubt in my mind the disruptive pass rusher can be a productive player in this league, but his dominance has faded as double teams became more prominent.
Hopefully, adding a quality player like Quinnen will allow him to return to his former self.