With the New York Jets, defensive end Leonard Williams finished last season as one of the top rookies in the NFL. Heading into his sophomore season, he will be a force to reckon with.
Defensive end Leonard Williams, a former sixth-overall selection by the New York Jets in 2015, had a solid rookie season and is looking forward to pouncing on opposing quarterbacks this year. The 6-foot-5, 302 pound defensive end recorded three sacks with 63 tackles and a team-leading 32 quarterback hits during his first season in the NFL.
Williams proved right away he was indeed a steal for the Jets as he dropped several spots in last years draft. According to an article written by Kaylee Pofahl of the New York Post, when Williams was asked about how he feels about the upcoming 2016 season, he said:
“It is different because last year I just kept thinking, ‘rookie, rookie, rookie,’ but now… I know that I’m a pro now.” said Williams during training camp. ” I know the playbook now, so I don’t have to think as much when I’m out there, I can just play. It’s less pressure now that I’m not a rookie anymore, and I don’t have to have that tag or label on me. It’s just been more comfortable overall this year.”
The current state of the Jets’ defensive line is rather mysterious. Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson has recently expressed his emotions towards his current situation with the team following the contract extension of Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Fletcher Cox. The star defender hasn’t signed his franchise tender as of right now, which could leave a potential opening for Williams if either Wilkerson doesn’t sign or a deal is not reached soon.
Damon Harrison also departed from the Jets via free agency but will not be traveling far as he will remain in New Jersey to play for the New York Giants. Williams recently received a very positive endorsement from his own defensive line coach Pepper Johnson. According to the same aforementioned article written by Pofahl of the New York Post, when Johnson was asked about his young 22-year old defensive end, he had this to say.
More from The Jet Press
- NY Jets should target TE Hunter Henry in free agency
- NY Jets: Why the team should target cornerback Shaquill Griffin
- NY Jets reportedly non-tendering linebacker Harvey Langi
- NY Jets: Why the team should not cut Jamison Crowder
- NY Jets should try to sign Kenny Golladay in free agency
“He learned a lot, and I like what I have.” Said Johnson, a former two-time Super Bowl linebacker for the Giants. “He actually matured a lot not saying he was [immature] when he came in. He came in with a maturity, a professionalism. But he just has taken it to another level.”
It’s also worth mentioning that Williams was second on the team with 811 defensive snaps behind Wilkerson who had 941 defensive snaps.
According to his coaches, he’s made tremendous progress since last season which should without a doubt scare opposing quarterbacks as the young Jet had no problem getting his hands on quarterbacks last season.
A star in the making, expect an increase in sacks, tackles and quarterback hits as he enters his sophomore season. With the Jets’ defensive line in a curious state as the team lost Harrison and has yet had Wilkerson ink his tender, all signs point towards Williams receiving a much larger opportunity this upcoming season to breakout.
It’s quite possible the Jets are feeling extremely comfortable with Williams and wish to monitor the progress of defensive end Sheldon Richardson both on and off the field before committing long-term to Wilkerson. Currently, it seems likely that Wilkerson will play out his tender and become a free agent next offseason. If Williams can increase his production from last year, it’s highly possible that the Jets endorse Williams fully as their cornerstone of the future.
The future is shining bright for the young Jet. Already receiving positive feedback from his coaches, expect Williams to have an even larger year in 2016 as the Big Cat will look to show opposing offenses that he’s indeed a dangerous force to be reckoned with.