Leonard Williams
Robby Sabo, ESNY Graphic

New York Jets interior defensive lineman Leonard Williams won’t have the chance to flourish completely until the EDGE does its job.

Leonard Williams could play like a mini Aaron Donald and still not come away with the statistics needed to earn widespread NFL recognition. That frustrating yet realistic formulation will occur for the second-straight season if the New York Jets EDGE presence continues to rank among the NFL’s worst.

We’re talking outside linebacker play in Todd Bowles’s attacking 3-4 scheme. We’re discussing Jordan Jenkins, Lorenzo Mauldin, David Bass, Courtney Upshaw, Josh Martin and Dylan Donahue.

Big Cat could literally play like a Pro Football Hall of Famer and still net average results due to the idea he’s doubled on every play, something we saw entirely too much a year ago.

In the following example against the Cleveland Browns a year ago, J-Jenkins actually puts forth a solid push on the right edge, but Williams is doubled immediately.

This is where the true problem lies: offensive line strategy.

Usually, an offensive line must slide, fan, pinch depending on the strength of the four-man conventional pass rush. (Of course, this is much more of an occurrence when five and six-man rushes come.) But still, standard four-man rushes usually force a bit of strategy in this regard.

As it pertains to blocking the New York Jets standard four-man rush, it’s a pinch every time.

The two tackles are left on an island. They take care of edge rusher with no issues (due to the lack of talent on the outside). In many cases when a back should help chip and stay in as the sixth blocker, it’s not necessary. Iny event, with the tackles taking the two edge guys two-on-two, that leaves the three interior pieces to take on Big Cat and the other interior rusher.

The offensive guards never have to turn their attention to the outside when playing the Jets.

The following example is a perfect five-step-drop producing a clean Tom Brady pocket leading to a crucial first down on 3rd-and-5.

The stunt on the inside is literally the last and only piece of ammunition Todd Bowles has in attempting to let Williams loose on the QB. If the Jets aren’t bringing at least five, a double on Williams is guaranteed.

Perhaps the most devastating aspect to this situation comes when we actually see Leonard Williams beat his man red-handed only to get snuffed out by the fifth and only free man on the line.

Against the Miami Dolphins last year, that’s exactly what happened.

Watch center Mike Pouncey and where his attention immediately turns to post-snap. (It’s interesting, too, since Muhammad Wilkerson is, by far, still the closest rusher to him and thus, his top responsibility.) But this is just how much better Williams is in comparison to everybody else on that Jets pass rush.

It’s simply depressing to watch this man dominate his one-on-one opponent only to be shut down.

The Jets finished with 28 sacks a year ago, besting only four other NFL teams. Williams finished with just two sacks, five fewer than his seven during the 2016 season, prompting many critics to speak aloud despite not understanding a lick about what’s happening in the trenches.

The question for the here and now is, “Why will it change in 2018?” How can the kid possibly reach double-digit sacks and feature that stud we all know he is?

Well, nobody knows if it can change.

Mysteriously, Mike Maccagnan drafted no edge rushers (when there were plenty to take a chance on, hello Josh Sweat). He took a chance on Division II interior man Nathan Shepherd, but will be gambling on the same weak crop of outside linebackers carried over from a season ago.

The New York Jets best bet is if Leonard Williams actually learns how to defeat double-teams. Don’t hold your breath, folks. It’s damn near impossible.

Robby Sabo is a co-founder, CEO and credentialed New York Jets content creator for Jets X-Factor - Jet X, which includes Sabo's Sessions (in-depth film breakdowns) and Sabo with the Jets. Host: Underdog Jets Podcast with Wayne Chrebet and Sabo Radio. Member: Pro Football Writers of America. Coach: Port Jervis (NY) High School. Washed up strong safety and 400M runner. SEO: XL Media. Founder: Elite Sports NY - ESNY (Sold in 2020). SEO: XL Media. Email: robby.sabo[at]jetsxfactor.com