Despite what some critics may say, Leonard Williams didn’t have a bad year in 2017. Perhaps he had a down year compared to his first two seasons with the New York Jets, but one thing remains clear: he’ll have an opportunity to fill a big role in 2018.
23-year-old defensive end Leonard Williams, who played his collegiate ball at USC, was selected by the New York Jets with the sixth pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and his rookie season was quite a successful one. He finished the year with 63 total tackles and three sacks.
In 2016, the defensive end continued to make his presence felt, as he racked up 68 total tackles, in addition, a super impressive seven sacks. He was also selected as a first-team alternate for the Pro Bowl.
In regards to the 2017 campaign, it’s true that William’s numbers were a bit down, as he totaled 47 tackles, two sacks, and one interception. However, he played in every game, played well at times, and has a ton of potential and upside.
With the 2017 season now in the rearview mirror, it’s now time to focus on the future. Moving forward, Williams will have the opportunity to fill a pivotal role and here’s why.
Like Williams, Sheldon Richardson was a first-round draft pick for the Jets. After being selected in 2013, Richardson made an immediate impact for the Green and White throughout his first four seasons, but off the field issues and other factors led the team to trade him prior to the start of the 2017 season.
In addition, Muhammad Wilkerson, drafted by the Jets in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, has been a force on the team’s defensive line over the past few years. In fact, at one point, he was the staple of Jets’ defense, which earned him a five-year $86 million deal that he signed with the team in 2016.
However, 2017 proved to be his worst season to date. He dealt with injuries early on and he ended up getting benched later in the season due to disciplinary reasons. It became clear that Wilkerson had a history of violating team rules and often showing up late to or missing team meetings.
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Due to these reasons, it’s possible that Wilkerson has played his last game in a Jets uniform. With that being said, Wilkerson, Richardson, and Williams would’ve been an electric trio on the Jets’ defensive line, but heading into 2018, Williams will be left without both of them.
With Wilkerson, the Jets were hoping to have a fierce and talented leader with the longevity to be a force for years to come.
Now, Williams will have the chance to fill those shoes. That’s a tall order for such a young player to fill, and although the Jets will likely add talent around him, he certainly has the talent and the intangibles to do so.
The Jets’ defense is currently filled with a plethora of young players with bright futures, but Williams will likely be counted on to be the man up front.
The opportunity is his for the taking – now let’s see if he lives up the task.