Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The New York Jets are holding Quinnen Williams back
As much as things change, they stay the same.
The New York Jets‘ coaching staff is mismanaging one of its best players for the second consecutive season. Defensive tackle Quinnen Williams is yet again being limited to a snap count that is criminally low for a player of his caliber.
Williams currently owns an overall Pro Football Focus grade of 82.7, which is the best mark of any player on the team (offense or defense) and ranks eighth-best out of 105 qualified NFL defensive tackles this season (93rd percentile). Williams’s film verifies the grade, as he has been dominating his reps on a frequent basis.
Quinnen Williams is having a great year so far. This past Sunday, he was the only Jet who consistently took advantage of the Bengals OL pic.twitter.com/8583zpqdNW
— Michael Nania (@Michael_Nania) September 28, 2022
Despite Williams’s excellent performance, he only ranks 36th among DTs with 120 defensive snaps this season. Just six of the other 31 teams have given fewer snaps to their most-used DT.
Take a look at how Williams’s playing time compares to some of the other top-tier defensive tackles in the NFL:
- Williams: 40.0 snaps per game / 63% snap ratio
- Jeffery Simmons (TEN): 54.0 / 81%
- DeForest Buckner (IND): 53.0 / 78%
- Jonathan Allen (WAS): 52.3 / 78%
- Chris Jones (KC): 51.7 / 74%
- Grady Jarrett (ATL): 51.3 / 79%
The Jets’ best player is spending way too much time on the sidelines.
We were having this same exact conversation one year ago. Williams finished his 2021 season with a nearly identical average of 40.9 snaps per game.
As Jets X-Factor’s Stefan Stelling pointed out, Williams’s significant lack of playing time in comparison to his fellow stars is holding him back from accruing phenomenal production totals. For instance, in the 2021 season, if Williams maintained the same level of per-snap efficiency while playing around the same number of snaps per game as his peers, he’d jump to top-15 in pressures, top-6 in sacks, and first in run stops.
Using Quinnen’s 2021 pressure rate, sack rate, and run stop rate, in 2021 he would have had:
10 more pressures (27th to 14th)
2 more sacks (11th to 6th)
10 more run stops (17th to 1st)
— Stefan Stelling (@li_jets) September 28, 2022
Based on the snap counts of his similarly-talented peers, Williams should be playing at least 12 more snaps per game than he currently is.
Considering that the league-average NFL drive lasts 6.0 plays, that’s essentially two whole drives per game in which Williams is on the bench while other teams have their equivalent of Williams on the field.
Taking Williams off the field for two extra drives might be justified if the Jets were relieving Williams with a backup who played at a highly efficient level in his limited role. But they have the polar opposite of that.
When Williams is on the sideline, Nathan Shepherd is the guy who takes his place. For instance, against the Bengals, Williams played 46 of the 68 snaps (68%) while Shepherd played 22 of the 68 snaps (32%). They were never on the field together.
Shepherd is doing nothing to warrant stealing reps from Williams.
Over 66 snaps this year, Shepherd has zero sacks, zero quarterback hits, one hurry, zero run stops, and one missed tackle. Shepherd has gone 21 consecutive games without a sack despite playing 42% of the snaps over that span, and he has six penalties over that stretch.
What are we doing here?
New York can become a significantly more talented team just by boosting Williams’s playing time to match other players around the league who are similarly productive. Imagine how much better the Jets defense would look if they substituted two drives with Nathan Shepherd on the field for two drives with Quinnen Williams on the field.
Over the course of the season, the Jets’ current snap distribution at DT will essentially have the same effect as if Williams missed approximately four games due to injury.
Allow me to explain.
Williams is on pace to play 680 snaps this year (40.0 per game). Indy’s DeForest Buckner, for example, is on pace for 901 (53.0 per game). That’s a difference of 221 snaps, or the equivalent of slightly more than four whole games for Buckner based on his current average of snaps per game.
So, the Jets are basically on track to hold Williams out of four whole games so they can replace him with Nathan Shepherd.
Let that sink in.