The New York Giants’ trade for defensive lineman Leonard “Big Cat” Williams last October was an ill-advised one for many reasons.
Williams was a) an impending free agent, b) going to demand a lot of money in free agency, c) his numbers were declining and d) the third-place Giants were going nowhere and should not be trading valuable draft capital for veteran players.
All of that turned out to be true. Williams and the Giants could not come to a contract agreement this past winter and the club was forced to use the franchise tag, retaining Williams’ services for this season at a whopping $16.1 million salary.
Williams also ended up costing the Giants two draft choices, sending the Jets their third round selection (No. 68, used to take Cal safety Ashtyn Davis) and a 2021 fifth rounder.
In addition, Williams continued his disappointing play, statistics-wise. He did not record a sack in this seven games with the Jets and was almost as futile in his eight games with the Giants, finally recording a half-sack in his eighth game in blue.
But stats aren’t everything. Williams’ presence on the defensive line was a legitimate one, and he was able to forge a steady alliance with the Giants’ other two starting linemen (Dalvin Tomlinson and Dexter Lawrence) and the Giants’ defense became effective against the run.
This summer, the Giants are confident they can build on that success from last year. They brought in Sean Spencer a.k.a ‘Coach Chaos’ to tutor the defensive line and believe that Williams, still just 26, could be ready to show off his first round form again.
“I think one thing is he’s doing a great job of taking the classroom work, the work we do in the meetings prior to practice and being able to bring that out on the field and do the things we’re asking him to do,” Spencer said of Williams on Monday.
“Clearly, as you guys know, he’s an unbelievable athlete. I think he’s starting to put it all together. He’s always had the tools. He’s working on refining his craft right now. He looks strong, powerful like you said. I’m just happy with his progress right now.”
Progress is one thing, but how is all of that going to equate to more pressures and sacks in 2020? Williams was credited with 16 QB hits in 2019 and Spencer is not focused solely on Williams doing that. He’s coaching the entire unit to play the same way.
“Obviously, as we stated before, he’s a tremendous athlete,” continued Spencer. “We need to take him from being just this tremendous athlete to refining him as a football player, and I think he’s working towards that right now. What I tell Leonard is the same thing I’ll tell Dex (Lawrence), the same thing I’ll tell Chris Slayton. Everybody is kind of coached the same. I don’t have a particular ‘this is a Leonard focus.’
“Clearly, there are things that he’s going to do really well that you want to use those tools. But at the same time within the framework of what I’m teaching, he’s doing those things and trying to articulate those things on the field.”
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