Many people thought the New York Jets were destined to have the best defensive line in football when Mike Maccagnan drafted Leonard Williams to play alongside Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson. Those two are now gone, therefore Williams has a lot on his table in 2018.
Defensive end Leonard Williams was the first ever draft selection for New York Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan. Maccagnan used the sixth overall pick to nab the former USC Trojan in the 2015 NFL Draft.
However, as we are all familiar with by now, a lot of positional moves and on the field/off the field issues led to Wilkerson and Richardson leaving town. Wilkerson was cut this offseason and signed by with the Green Bay Packers, while Richardson was shipped out to the Seattle Seahawks last season.
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The thought process behind both moves was that the Jets could afford to cut ties with both players due to the fact they had a budding star in Williams. This seems to be true, as he has played well as both a defensive end and interior defensive lineman.
However, 2018 is a big test for the Big Cat. He will have a lot of weight on his shoulders, as well as higher expectations as he enters his fourth season at age 24.
2017 SEASON REVIEW
Williams had a solid season in 2017. He made the move to interior defensive lineman and did so fairly easily.
Some may see his 2017 stats and think Williams had a down year. This is because he only tallied two sacks and 47 combined tackles in 16 games after he went for seven sacks, 68 combined tackles, and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2016.
However, Williams was still very effective in 2017. Pro Football Focus gave him a grade of 84.8, which landed him the 21st ranked defensive lineman in the NFL. That was good enough to fall into the above average category.
2018 SEASON OUTLOOK
Williams looks as though he is ready to take it to the next level. His 2017 season was exactly what the Jets were hoping for, even if the stats don’t reflect his performance.
The former Trojan has been very consistent in the NFL. PFF even had him on their list of top 25 players under the age of 25 for the 2018 season.
There is reason and optimism to believe that Williams will have a breakout year in 2018. But, he will also have expectations to deal with. According to PFF, there is only one defensive lineman other than Williams who has had more combined sacks and quarterback hits over the past two years: All-Pro and No. 1 ranked defensive lineman Aaron Donald.
TRAINING CAMP PREDICTION
Williams doesn’t have to come to training camp and worry about claiming a spot on the roster. He is by far the team’s best defensive linamn, which is something he will look to build off of to take the next step in 2018.