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Breaking down Quinnen Williams’ pass-rush production | Part 3

Quinnen Williams and Dwayne Haskins
Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

Michael Nania goes beyond the simplicity of the box scores to break down Quinnen Williams‘ strengths and weaknesses as a pass-rusher in 2019, taking a look at games 7 through 9.

Quinnen Williams‘ rookie season was respectable, but he did underwhelm with a lack of eye-popping plays in the passing game. As the third overall pick and largely hailed as the draft’s most talented player, the expectation was for him to come right in and dominate. He failed to do that.

However, at 22 years old with only two years of starting experience across both college and the NFL, Williams’ story is far from complete. He has plenty of time to fulfill his massive potential.

Rather than giving up on Williams and endlessly complaining about his sack totals (an incredibly simplistic stat that does not come close to capturing a player’s overall impact), what we should be doing is analyzing the pluses and minuses of his game to understand where he is as a player and how he can take the next step.

I wanted to give Williams’ pass-rushing game the in-depth look that it deserves. Was he truly a liability, or were there hidden-impact plays that flew under the radar on live television? What were his strengths and weaknesses in terms of move type, alignment, and matchup?

To answer these questions, I set out to re-watch all of Williams’ pass-rushing reps throughout the season, charting a few details for each one to locate trends and impact that flew by the naked eye.

Today, we get into games 7-9 of Williams’ rookie season. Check out the breakdown of Williams’ first three games here and games 4-6 here.

Here are a few things to know before we get into the numbers behind Williams’ games against the Giants, Redskins, and Raiders.

Production by move type

These are the five varieties of moves that I divided Williams’ rushes into.

Power: Williams’ initial move is directed straight into the opponent’s chest with the intent to win through strength.

Inside: Williams attempts to beat his man to the inside with a rip, spin, swipe, swim/arm-over, etc.

Outside: Williams attempts to beat his man to the outside with a rip, spin, swipe, swim/arm-over, etc.

Stunt penetrator: Williams’ assignment is to crash down and absorb blockers to open up a clear lane into the pocket for a teammate.

Stunt looper: Williams’ assignment is to sell his rush in one direction and then change his course to take advantage of the lane created by a teammate.

Production by alignment

I charted Williams’ rushes according to his alignment across the line of scrimmage. Here is a look at the positions used (known as “techniques,” as in “3-technique”).

American Football Techniques Defensive Line NFL

Production by matchup

I charted Williams’ rushes according to the position of the offensive player that he competed against. If he was a stunt penetrator or looper, I assigned his matchup as the player who he most needed to absorb or defeat to create a lane for either a teammate or himself.

What was charted?

Pass rush snaps: Number of times Williams rushed the passer. Excludes screens, bootlegs, sprint-outs, or any type of play in which Williams did not get the chance to truly engage with an opponent. I have listed the number of rushes that were discounted in each game.

Hits: Williams does not sack the quarterback, but knocks him to the ground.

Hurries: Williams does not sack or knock down the quarterback, but he bears down on the quarterback to force an awkward change in his throwing mechanics, a premature release, scramble, etc.

Wins: This stat is the crux of the study, aiming to solely capture Williams’ ability to get his job done.

There are many examples of good reps that go for naught. A victorious rush could end up not amounting to anything because of a quick release by the quarterback. The rusher could be on his way to a sack until he is forced to stop and put his hands up to block the throwing lane. When a player clears an opening as a stunt penetrator, he may not have gotten to the quarterback himself, but he created the opportunity for somebody else to.

Those are just a few of many ways that a defender can record a great rush and not get rewarded with statistical credit that recognizes his effort.

The “wins” stat accounts for such issues by looking only at Williams’ assignment and nothing else. Generally, I considered a “win” any instance in which Williams beat a blocker to set himself or a teammate en route to the QB’s initial set point within a reasonable amount of time (about 2.5 seconds from snap to win). That’s just a rough outline, though – it’s a subjective stat. Every play is different from the next and I alter my criteria as such. My primary goal was to simply identify Williams’ job and credit him with a win if he got it done effectively.

Keep in mind that if a pressure is recorded (hurries/hits/sacks), a win will be logged on that play as well.

This is a stat I created myself and have only used for analyzing Williams, so we do not know how his win rates would compare against the average defensive lineman or whether they are good or bad. The main purpose of the study is to compare Williams against himself, visualizing his best and worst splits in addition to his progress throughout the season.

Let’s dive in.

Games 7-9

In this piece, we will be looking at Williams’ games against the Giants, Redskins, and Raiders from Weeks 7-9.

Here is a look at Williams’ production over those three games.

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Here are the numbers broken down by move type.

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