Quinnen Williams is putting up big numbers, but they should be bigger
Williams ranks fifth among IDL (interior defensive linemen) in sacks (5.0) and is tied for fourth in quarterback hits (11). His run-stop rate of 9.6% (14 run stops over 148 snaps against the run) ranks at the 81st percentile among qualified IDL.
The only IDL in the league who are ranked in the top-20% for run-stop rate as well as in the top-five for quarterback hits are Williams, DeForest Buckner, and Jeffery Simmons.
As strong as Williams’ numbers are, they should be much more impressive.
The reason is simple: the Jets are not giving Williams nearly enough playing time.
Williams ranks only 31st at his position with 378 defensive snaps played. Yet, he owns top-5 rankings in sacks and quarterback hits while ranking 21st with 14 run stops.
It is remarkable how many plays Williams has made relative to his snap count. Few defensive tackles are producing at Williams’ level on a per-snap basis.
Williams has contributed to six sacks (4 solo sacks, 2 half-sacks) over his 378 snaps. That is an average of one sack every 63.0 defensive snaps – the best rate among 97 qualified IDL (200+ defensive snaps).
- Quinnen Williams: 63.0 (6 on 378)
- Jeffery Simmons: 64.2 (9 on 578)
- Jonathan Allen: 71.0 (6 on 426)
- Leonard Williams: 72.9 (7 on 510)
- Akiem Hicks: 78.3 (3 on 235)
- Kingsley Keke: 81 .0 (3 on 243)
- B.J. Hill: 81.7 (3 on 245)
- Aaron Donald: 82.3 (7 on 576)
- DeForest Buckner: 87.5 (6 on 525)
- Derrick Nnadi: 89.0 (3 on 267)
Tennessee’s Jeffery Simmons leads IDL with nine sacks, three more than Williams, but he has played 200 more snaps than Williams. On a per-snap basis, Williams is producing sacks at a slightly better rate than the Titans’ star.
If Williams were playing as much as guys like Simmons, he could be putting up otherworldly statistics this year. Instead, he is playing a rotational diet of snaps, holding him back from racking up All-Pro numbers.
Williams has played no more than 68% of the Jets’ defensive snaps in a game this season. On average, he has played 61% of the defensive snaps. He went as low as 52% in a game.
That is nowhere near the level of usage that players of Williams’ caliber typically get. Here is a look at how often some of the league’s other star 3-techniques have played this year:
- Quinnen Williams (NYJ): 61% average – 68% maximum, 52% minimum
- DeForest Buckner (IND): 81% average – 88% maximum, 70% minimum
- Leonard Williams (NYG): 81% average – 91% maximum, 72% minimum
- Jeffery Simmons (TEN): 84% average – 95% maximum, 65% minimum
- Jonathan Allen (WAS): 71% average – 87% maximum, 58% minimum
- Aaron Donald (LAR): 85% average – 96% maximum, 60% minimum
- Grady Jarrett (ATL): 73% average – 79% maximum, 58% minimum
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Most players in Williams’ talent tier average a higher snap portion than Williams’ maximum snap portion this season.
The Jets use a rotation-heavy approach for their defensive line. They consistently keep guys moving on and off the field in an effort to prevent fatigue.
That idea made a lot of sense when the Jets were set to enter the season with a lineup of Williams, John Franklin-Myers, Sheldon Rankins, Foley Fatukasi, Carl Lawson, Vinny Curry, and Bryce Huff.
However, with Lawson and Curry ruled out for the season prior to Week 1, that plan should have been scrapped long ago. Huff has also been out for the Jets’ most recent three games and Williams’ playing time still has not changed at all.
Now that the defensive line depth chart is depleted, Williams is yielding far too many snaps to guys like Nathan Shepherd, and it is crushing the defense.
With a 32.6 overall grade this season, Shepherd is the NFL’s lowest-graded IDL at Pro Football Focus among the position’s 97 players with at least 200 snaps.
Despite his poor performance, Shepherd has registered an average snap portion of 35% across all nine of the Jets’ games this season. He has played at least 27% of the snaps in every game and as many as 45%.
What is going on here?
Again, if the Jets were fully healthy, it would make sense to be rotation-heavy and keep Williams fresh. The Jets would be able to put viable talent on the field while Williams catches a breath.
But without enough talent to adequately replace Williams when he subs out, the Jets are paying the price for sticking with their rotational approach. They get caught much too often with abysmal units like this one.
Another thing to criticize/reflect on this defense:
the heavy DL rotation approach.
On Buffalo's first touchdown, the Jets four-man rush consisted of Ronald Blair, Nathan Shepherd, Sheldon Rankins and Hamilcar Rashed Jr.
JA bought extra time and the Bills scored. pic.twitter.com/NMqxWw8ZtR
— Vitor (@VitorPaivaM) November 15, 2021
Every team has to rotate its defensive linemen to some degree. No defense has all of its stars on the field for the entire game. And now that the Jets are without three of their intended key pieces up front, they have no choice but to rely on guys like Shepherd, Hamilcar Rashed, and Ronald Blair at times.
That does not mean they need to be caught without their best player on the field a whopping 40% of the time.
New York’s roster has been decimated by injuries, and it’s time for Jeff Ulbrich, Robert Saleh, and the defensive staff to adjust accordingly. Keeping Williams’ snap count down to maximize his effectiveness was a great idea when he could be subbed out for guys like Curry, Franklin-Myers, Huff, and Rankins. The Jets can no longer afford to have him watch nearly half of the game now that he is being replaced by bottom-of-the-barrel players.
Williams is making the most of his playing time, but he can hardly be a game-changing difference-maker with his current snap count. It is long overdue for the Jets to give their brightest young defensive talent the star-caliber workload that he deserves.
If he can extrapolate his current efficiency over a large workload, Williams could put up some record-setting numbers that would go a long way toward helping the Jets right the ship.
Ulbrich and Saleh must give Quinnen a chance to show whether he can be the driving force behind pulling his team out of its darkest defensive stretch in history. Give him the keys and let him show you the full extent of his potential.