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NY Jets Spotlight: Leonard Williams

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Welcome to the Spotlight.  Here we spotlight one key player for each game of the season, hopefully putting a different player in the spotlight each week.  Today's player in the spotlight is New York Jets defensive end  Leonard Williams.

Leonard Williams, a 6' 5", 300 pound defensive lineman out of USC, was drafted by the Jets with the 6th overall selection in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft.  With extraordinary quickness and agility, great explosiveness, and outstanding leverage and strength, Williams was widely considered the best player in the 2015 draft, yet he fell to the Jets at the 6th selection.  After a promising rookie year Williams is beginning to fully realize his immense potential in 2016. He has been the best player in a Jets uniform this year.

The Jets entered the 2016 campaign with three first round draft picks and three potential Pro Bowl players on the defensive line: Sheldon Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams.  11 games into the season only one of those players, Leonard Williams, has  come close to living up to his billing.  Williams leads the Jets with six sacks and leads the Jets with two forced fumbles. Williams consistently wins his matchups and is a constant presence in opponents' backfields.  With the Jets struggling through a terrible season they may well lack a single player in the 2016 Pro Bowl. If any player has a chance for post season honors that player is Leonard Williams.

Here are Leonard Williams'  statistics for his NFL career.

Year

Games

Tackles

Assists

Forced

Fumbles

Sacks

.

2015

16

29

34

0

3

2016

11

29

12

2

6

Leonard Williams has played extremely well in 2016. The Jets will need him at his best tonight if they are to have a chance to beat the Indianapolis Colts. The key to stopping the Colts is simple: limit Andrew Luck.  Simple, but not easy.  The Jets pass defense has been subpar all year, and the matchups of the Colts receivers with the Jets defensive backs do not appear to be favorable.  However any quarterback can be stopped with a fierce pass rush.

Fortunately for the Jets the Colts have not protected Andrew Luck well in 2016. Luck has been sacked multiple times in every game this season. Unfortunately for the Jets the Jets have been awful at sacking the quarterback this year, ranking dead last in the NFL since their big seven sack game in the season opener.  Terrible pass protection meets terrible pass rush; something's gotta give. If it's up to Leonard Williams the Colts pass protection will be doing the giving, and the Jets pass rush will be doing the taking.

Unfortunately even Leonard Williams has succumbed recently to the Jets sack drought.  The Jets have registered multiple sacks in only two of their last seven games, and Leonard Williams, after racking up six sacks in his first seven games of 2016,  has now gone without a sack in each of his last four games.

If the Jets are to have a chance to defeat the Colts they will need to take advantage of a suspect Colts offensive line and get to the quarterback.  Leonard Williams is the Jets' best chance to lead the charge of the pass rush. There aren't a lot of good options for the Jets in trying to limit Andrew Luck and the Colts passing game, but getting pressure from an underperforming defensive line ranks high among them. Like any good quarterback, give Luck time and he will pick you apart. Get consistent pressure on him and he will begin to give your defense the opportunity to make plays. Now would be a great time for Leonard Williams to break his four game sackless streak and put Luck down a time or two.

The Colts can't really hurt you much with their running game or their defense. This is a one dimensional opponent, but its one dimension is Andrew Luck, and that's often enough for the Colts to win.  This would be a great game for Leonard Williams to shine in the pass rush and get in Luck's grill all game.  If we see Williams and his defensive line cohorts pressure Luck all game, being a disruptive force in collapsing the pocket and getting multiple sacks then the Jets will have a good shot at winning at home against the Colts.  Williams could prove to be a pivotal player in this game if he gets his pass rush game on track.   This is Leonard Williams' time in the spotlight.  In a prime time game in front of a national audience the Jets' best player has a chance to show the nation just how good he is.   Time to rise and shine under the bright lights of Monday Night Football Leonard.