Rookie Year Behind Him, Jets’ Leonard Williams Ready to Dominate
The contract situations between Muhammad Wilkerson and Ryan Fitzpatrick have taken most of the headlines this offseason, which has really taken the spotlight off of the rest of the New York Jets team.
One of the storylines to watch as training camp approaches will be the development of Leonard Williams. The Jets drafted the defensive lineman sixth overall in the 2015 draft and he had one of the most successful rookie seasons in the NFL last year.
His 2015 totals included 63 tackles, three sacks, and 32 quarterback hits which led the team. And with one season under his belt, Williams says that his growing pains are over.
“It is different because last year I just kept thinking, ‘rookie, rookie, rookie,’ but now … I know that I’m a pro now,” Williams said during last week’s 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.”
It’s almost hard to believe that there were growing pains for him last year considering the success he had. But it is great to see from a young player that he is not satisfied with just one season of success. Williams thinks that he can be a better all-around player.
“You know, a lot of people think I had a good year last year. I think so too — for my first year — but I feel more comfortable this year, so I just want to improve,” Williams said. “I think I did really well in the running game last year, so during the offseason I’ve been working on my pass rushing.”
It will be very important for Williams to perform at a high level next year because as of right now, the Jets really only have two constants on the defensive line. One of them is Williams and the other is Sheldon Richardson. Damon Harrison signed a contract with the Giants and Wilkerson is kind of up in the air right now.
The defensive line is probably the best part of the Jets team, even without Damon Harrison. But if Williams, Richardson, and Wilkerson (assuming he plays this year) can all play to their potential this year, the defensive line will be more than fine.
“There’s pressure on you being a rookie especially when you go first round, you know, people have high expectations for you, but I had a pretty good year and I’m looking forward to my second,” Williams said.
He has every right to look forward to this year. He had a great rookie year, he is comfortable in the system, he knows the playbook, and he is playing alongside two terrific guys to learn from between Wilkerson and Richardson. The future looks very bright for this young defensive lineman.
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