At long last, Quinnen Williams showcased the full extent of his unique talent, pitching a tent in San Francisco’s backfield against both the run and the pass.
Quinnen Williams‘ rookie season with the Jets was respectable, but it was far from the dominant rampage that most expected when the Jets took him with the third overall pick. Though he was solid against the run, his largely mediocre pass-rushing left a lot to be desired.
However, Williams quietly finished the 2019 season playing some improved football, flashing his elite talent on a more consistent basis even if the stat-sheet did not quite show it. Based on the progress he showed on film near the end of his rookie year, I felt confident about Williams bringing everything together for a Year 2 breakout.
The season opener in Buffalo was not a great start on the road to reaching stardom, as Williams went without a pressure outside of a quarterback hit that drew a roughing the passer penalty.
Williams turned everything around in the blink of an eye. He was unstoppable against the 49ers in Week 2, enjoying the best game of his career as he looked exactly like the game-wrecking force the Jets hoped they were getting.
With two sacks (both of them legitimate) and three tackles for loss against the run, Williams led the NFL with five stops behind the line of scrimmage in Week 2. Through two weeks, no other player has had a game with more than three such stops.
Let’s dig into the film behind what the peak version of Quinnen Williams looks like.
Williams was a good run defender in 2019, but he has the potential to be one of the league’s most destructive interior defensive linemen in that phase. The San Francisco game was a glimpse into that potential.
One of Williams’ best traits against the run is his range. While there are some skills from his Alabama days that he has yet to fully translate, this is one that he has brought to the table for the Jets since day one. With the combination of a great motor and excellent change-of-direction speed for a man his size, Williams is able to make plays from sideline-to-sideline that few other interior defensive linemen can.
The 49ers run a counter play here. As the 3-technique, Williams sheds the down block from stud left tackle Trent Williams with a hump move (using the lineman’s momentum against him by planting and throwing him by the shoulder toward the direction he is sliding). He quickly recognizes the counter action, not being fooled by the misdirection at all, and chases down Raheem Mostert to combine with Marcus Maye on the tackle for a three-yard loss.
Strong shed, good recognition, quick burst, and a powerful finish. Excellent range on display there from the 303-pound Williams. Great play by Maye as well, remaining disciplined on the edge.
As the 1-technique here, Williams crashes down and catches the right guard with his feet crossed, blasting him in the chest with tight, accurate hands and then bringing his arm over to easily break through. Jordan Jenkins does a good job setting the edge to force Mostert upfield, and Williams flies in to team up with Jenkins on the tackle for a two-yard loss.
Williams is the play side 3-tech here. He violently explodes off the ball, stays very low, and attacks into the chest with tight hands to generate a ton of penetration. Williams reads the action and maintains leverage to the outside while still pushing into the backfield, then sheds to make the tackle for a two-yard loss. Good timing on the shed and an accurate pursuit to the ball, as Williams meets Tevin Coleman head-on as soon as he cuts upfield.
With Jenkins getting pinned inside and Alec Ogletree clearly overpursuing, that could have been a big run if Williams did not dominate the rep.
Williams again shows off his range on this play, coming from the back side B-gap to make a stop in the play side A-gap. As the 1-technique, Williams shoots for the outside shoulder of the left guard (back side B-gap) while the 49ers run in the opposite direction. Williams gets good leverage on the guard’s outer half and creates a ton of penetration while scraping down the line. He keeps himself extended from the guard to maintain the ability to shed. Williams rides the guard’s lateral momentum across the line of scrimmage and then sheds to bring down Coleman for a one-yard gain.
Run defense is definitely important, but in a league where teams are throwing more passes each year and continuously becoming more efficient at doing so, pass-rushing is the far superior trait in a front-seven player. Whether Williams can become a stud in this facet of the game is what will dictate whether he becomes a very good player or a superstar.
Williams came out of Alabama with incredible upside as a pass-rusher. He coupled his blend of strength and athleticism with a versatile repertoire of moves, showcasing the complete package of necessary tools to become a Fletcher Cox or Geno Atkins type of force in the passing game.
In 2019, Williams had a good number of moments in which he created quality pressure with sheer power, but he had a lot of trouble translating the finesse and technical aspects of his game to the NFL, which is the primary reason his production in that phase was lackluster.
Throughout the latter portion of 2019, Williams showed gradual improvement with his ability to win one-on-one matchups through methods other than mere power. That progress all came together this past Sunday, as Williams enjoyed his first dominant pass-rushing performance as a Jet.
Against the 49ers, Williams picked up the first two legitimate sacks of his career (he had two unblocked sacks and a cleanup half-sack in 2019) while flashing all of the traits that give him the potential to become a star in this area. He overwhelmed with raw strength, chained moves together to win with finesse, and most importantly, finished plays off. This is the guy that the Jets need to see on a weekly basis.