leonard williams giants
Vincent Carchietta | USA TODAY Sports

Leonard Williams exited Sunday’s loss and didn’t return.

Can it get any worse for this putrid 4-9 Giants team?

Following Sunday’s 37-21 loss to the Chargers, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports defensive lineman Leonard Williams will miss time with an elbow injury. Williams suffered the injury in the midst of Week 14 defeat, prematurely exited the game, and didn’t return.

It’s unclear how much time Williams will miss, but only four games remain for the Giants in this disastrous 2021 campaign (an injured reserve stint would sideline him for at least three). Williams may need to sit out the rest of his second full season with the team.

Williams has yet to miss a game with the Giants (or in his career, for that matter).

Leonard’s absence in Sunday’s game certainly played a role in the Chargers running the ball efficiently. Los Angeles totaled 152 yards on the ground. Austin Ekeler rushed for 67 while Justin Jackson and Joshua Kelley respectively ran for 35 and 33.

The Giants (without Williams) also failed to constantly pressure Justin Herbert and force him to make mistakes — the Chargers quarterback threw for 275 yards and three touchdowns.

A true loss

If Williams cannot go for the rest of the year, it would be a crucial loss for a Giants defense that took a major step back on Sunday. The unit was strong (albeit not perfect) in the Week 13 loss to Miami but was far from competitive against Los Angeles.

In a year in which the defense really needs to step up given the issues on the offensive end (the Giants are averaging 17.8 points per game), losing a talented defensive lineman, who just signed a $63 million extension last offseason, is the opposite of ideal.

In the absence of Williams, expect the Giants pass rush to further struggle and the front seven to look lost in terms of defending the run.

Week 15 won’t be pretty — the Giants face Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott on Sunday.

Moving forward

Regardless of how long Williams’ absence is, the Giants will still need to replace him for at least a game it seems.

Expect Raymond Johnson III, an undrafted rookie out of Georgia Southern University, to see an enhanced role while Williams nurses this injury. Johnson was on the field for 35% of the team’s defensive snaps Sunday (a season-high and career-high for him).

Dexter Lawrence and Austin Johnson will remain in their respective starting roles on the defensive line with Danny Shelton likely rotating in, as he’s done.

Follow Ryan Honey on Twitter: @RyanHoneyESNY

Listen to ESNY’s Wide Right Podcast on Apple here or on Spotify here.

Ryan Honey is a staff writer and host of the Wide Right Podcast.