New York Jets star defensive lineman Leonard Williams has been making an impact beyond the box score. In Week 5 vs. the Denver Broncos, he showed up in a big way on the stat sheet.
The court of public opinion is an interesting concept. That’s especially true for former first round picks.
If you, as a player, aren’t lighting up the box score, it’s very easy for fans to question the pick’s legitimacy or boom vs. bust potential. Now, not many people of significance said former No. 6 overall pick Leonard Williams was a bust, per se, but the lack of sacks was disturbing, to say the least.
Not counting 2018, Williams had accumulated 12 sacks in his first three years in the league. That’s a healthy average of four sacks a season—hardly a dominant pass rusher. Based purely on sack production, it sure seemed like Williams wasn’t delivering on the hype.
Coming out of USC, draft analysts were drooling in regards to his potential:
- “Dangerous pass rusher from twist game, showing a big closing burst. Effort rusher who will eventually get home if single-blocked. Beginning to develop spin move as a pass-rush counter. Showed intriguing potential as a pass-rushing end in space. Frame able to hold more weight and muscle”, via his NFL Draft Profile on NFL.com.
- “And for one NFC scout, Williams’ versatility invokes the name of one of the greatest defensive linemen in NFL history: Reggie White. “You can put him inside, outside, wherever you want to place him,” the scout told nj.com. “You could create mismatches with him, isn’t that what they used to do with Reggie?”
- “He can line up inside, and he can line up outside,” NFL Insider Daniel Jeremiah said. “You can do whatever you want with him. That is the definition of a game-changer, and that’s Leonard Williams.”
So safe to say people were pretty high on Williams and his ability to sack the opposing passer. Despite the talk, Williams hadn’t lived up to it. Questions started to arise that perhaps he wasn’t as good as most predicted.
Enter 2018, Williams through the first quarter of the season seemed like he was on that same pace only having one sack on the season. But then Williams brought up the term “hidden production.”
— AP NFL (@AP_NFL) September 30, 2018
Against the Denver Broncos on Sunday, fans didn’t have to try and understand “hidden production” because they finally saw real production from Williams. He registered two sacks on the stat sheet but was even more disruptive than that.
He forced Case Keenum to run around and force a lot of balls in tight windows, they would’ve been interceptions but the Jets secondary dropped a few of those.
The Jets have been waiting for this kind of production from their star lineman and it came at a perfect time. Not just for the Jets in terms of immediate winning, which they did in destroying the Broncos 34-16, but also selfishly for Williams.
Currently, he’s in the fourth year of his rookie contract. The Jets have already exercised the fifth-year option on his contract for 2019. How much will that cost? Well, we don’t know the answer to that question yet. That’s because his fifth-year option salary will be the average of the top 10 players at his position, which could change between now and then.
Although Williams explained this hidden production concept to the media and all of New York Jets fandom, I don’t think that explanation would’ve worked at the negotiating table for his next contract. If he can keep making real plays in the backfield, he’s not only going to earn respect, he’s also going to earn a lot of green from gang green.