The Jets recently added offensive lineman Isaiah Williams to their active roster after having signed him to the practice squad following training camp. He’s been active for the last few games, although he’s yet to see action on offense. Today, we break down Williams in detail.
The 28-year old Williams is listed at 6’3” and 295 pounds and was undrafted out of Akron in 2016. The Titans game just before the bye was the first time he’s played in an NFL regular season game, although he’s been with several teams and has played in the AAF and XFL.
Williams was a two-star recruit out of high school and began his career at Akron as a defensive lineman. In his first two seasons, he racked up 26 tackles and started three games at defensive tackle. However, he then redshirted his sophomore year in 2013 and converted to offensive tackle for his last two seasons.
In his redshirt junior season, Williams started 11 of 12 games, then in his final year he started 10 of 11 and was named as a third-team all-MAC selection.
He wasn’t invited to the scouting combine and it wasn’t a surprise when he went undrafted in 2016, but he spent his entire rookie year on Washington’s practice squad after being released in final cuts.
In 2017, they signed him to a futures deal but then released him again in final cuts. He spent six weeks on the Chiefs practice squad before being poached by the Colts. After six weeks on their active roster as a healthy scratch, he was released and finished up the season on their practice squad.
In 2018, having signed another futures deal, he was released by the Colts in May and then spent time with Washington, Oakland and New Orleans but was unable to get back onto an active roster.
He instead decided to play in the AAF, suiting up for three games, including two starts, with the Atlanta Legends. This earned him a spot in camp with the Ravens but he was released in final cuts again so he joined the XFL’s Tampa Bay Vipers and started three games with them.
Williams got back into the league with the 49ers last December and was even elevated to their active roster for two games, although he didn’t see any action. They signed him to a futures deal but then cut him in camp, so the Jets signed him to play the last preseason game and then added him to their practice squad.
Following the injury to Mekhi Becton, Williams bounced up and down between the practice squad and active roster over the last four games. He’s currently still on the 53, although that may change when Becton returns.
Now let’s take a look at what Williams brings to the table, divided into categories.
Williams is only listed at 295 pounds, although he did weigh 307 at his pro day when he first entered the league. He has a powerful frame and average length.
His combine numbers were mostly about average across the board. He ran a 5.21 in the 40-yard dash and posted 25 bench press reps. His agility numbers were slightly below average though.
Williams played as a tackle once he switched over to the offensive side of the ball, starting eight games at right tackle and three at left tackle in his redshirt junior year and then eight games at left tackle and two on the right as a redshirt senior.
At the AAF and XFL levels, he played exclusively at right tackle. However, he has also played both guard positions in preseason action. In his lone preseason appearance with the Jets, he played left tackle; the first time he’s played that position since college.
While Williams has plenty of experience at the tackle position, the fact other teams have tried him inside might be a sign that they don’t trust him to pass block on an island. Indeed, when the Jets gave him some preseason reps at left tackle, they gave him plenty of help.
On the whole, his pressure percentage numbers haven’t been too bad and he has only given up one sack in preseason action and two more while in the AAF and XFL.
However, he does show some signs of being susceptible to speed rushers coming off the edge despite not having really faced any NFL starter-level talent.
In addition, he can be moved off his spot by power rushers, as he is on this bull rush that leads to a holding call.
At times, he shows good feet and is balanced in his sets. On this play he deals with a spin move well.
Williams has had mixed results as a run blocker over the course of his career, wherever he has played. However, he had a good display with the Jets in the final preseason game, perhaps indicating he’s putting that aspect of his game together well and that he’d be a good fit in their system.
Here’s one play where he showed some strength and leverage as he impressively drove his man several yards off the line.
His main points of weakness are that he can sometimes let his man get under his pads at the snap, leading to early penetration or being stood up at the line and that he can allow his man to fight off his blocks in space.
Williams had some good plays in short yardage situations in preseason with the Jets, driving his man downhill to create a lane for an easy conversion on more than one occasion.
On the basis of these plays, he could be an option to put on the end of the line for a jumbo package at the goal line.
The screen pass was not something Akron used much with Williams on the team and his AAF and XFL teams tried to run a few without much success, so this could be an area where Williams needs some work.
On this play, he doesn’t do a good enough job of preventing his man from getting upfield and this leads to a defensive touchdown.
However, he has shown on running plays that he can get out to the second level and find a target in space, so there’s no reason he couldn’t be good at this.
There are times when Williams’ technique can let him down in pass protection. He set up quite well here, but allows his man to fight his hands off and leverage his way around him.
On this play, he isn’t as balanced and allows his man to get his hands inside so he can throw him off to finish the sack.
As a run blocker, though, he displays some good technique. In space, he can square up a smaller defender and completely engulf them, setting them up with a good understanding of angles.
This play actually got blown up because the wide receiver missed his block but Williams’ contribution sees him make a reach block, getting to the outside shoulder and blocking his man to the ground to set the edge.
In preseason action, Williams’ on-field discipline has been pretty good as he’s only had one penalty which was a false start.
However, in AAF and XFL action, he had four penalties in six games. These included two more false starts, a holding penalty in pass protection and this headbutt which drew an unsportsmanlike penalty but, surprisingly, not an ejection.
The only special teams action Williams has seen since moving to offensive line after the 2012 season is as a blocker on the placekicking unit. It was here that he finally saw his first NFL snaps over the last two games.
While Williams was in Washington, he spent extra time working with Trent Williams to learn the offense and start to see the benefits as the game started to slow down for him.
He doesn’t seem to mess up a lot of assignments but, on this play, the Jets struggle to pick up this game and the end is able to stunt inside, leading to a sack.
As noted earlier, he has had a few false starts.
Williams has good football character and is described as relentless and high-spirited. While at Akron, he won the John Heisman Award which goes to the unsung hero who displayed intangibles in practice and when inspiring the younger players.
As seen earlier, he had a foolish personal foul when he head-butted an opponent, although at least he was standing up for his quarterback in doing so.
Williams missed the 2013 season with a redshirt for undisclosed reasons but otherwise has only missed a few games here and there with minor issues over the course of his career.
Williams was signed by the 49ers at the end of the 2020 season, so clearly they felt he would be a good fit in this system and he showed a good comfort level in his one preseason appearance.
Having already worked with coached John Benton and Mike LaFleur, Williams has also been teammates with several current Jets over the course of his career. These include Tevin Coleman and Ronald Blair in San Francisco, Morgan Moses and Jamison Crowder in Washington and Thomas Morstead, Justin Hardee and Sheldon Rankins in New Orleans.
Williams has yet to see action on offense this year and there’s little chance of him doing so unless there are further injuries. However, the team may like his potential as a veteran utility reserve in the longer-term.
When Becton is activated, Williams could be released back to the practice squad. However, it’s possible he’s now moved ahead of Chuma Edoga and could retain his place. Edoga has also not seen any offensive snaps this year, but - unlike Williams - he hasn’t seen any action on special teams either. The team may prefer Williams to him because he has more experience of playing guard.
Conor McDermott is another injured player whose return could bump Williams off the team. However, Williams has been with the team for several weeks now, so hopefully he’s started to impress them with his potential.