By Jeff Moeller, The New York Extra/thenyextra.com
It was the end of October 2019, and many believed Dave Gettleman’s tenure as Giants’ GM was coming to an end.
Gettleman shocked the football world when he traded a 2020 third-round pick and a 2021 fifth-round pick for Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams.
Jets’ fans laughed, and Giants’ fans gasped.
Williams, the Jets’ top pick in the 2015 draft, was regarded as a bust. He had a Pro Bowl season in 2016 when he had seven of his 17 career sacks with the Jets.
In the rest of 2019, Williams had a half sack, and Gettleman further astonished the New York market by placing the franchise tag on Williams.
Nearly two years later, Williams is coming off an All-Pro season with 11.5 sacks, and he was a catalyst in the Giants’ late-season surge last season that hadthem on the brink of the postseason/
Once a castoff, Williams is expected to play a leadership role with the Giants this fall. He signed a three-year, $63 million deal.
It certainly has become his team on defense. Williams has to prove to himself and the league that last year wasn’t a fluke. It is his for the taking, and the expectations for him and the team will rise.
At 26, Williams is in the perfect position and in his prime. He emerged as a leader last season and now has to further enhance his presence as one of the elite lineman in the league.
Williams needs to take a primary role on a defense that was among the league’s top 10 overall units last season. It’s not just about surpassing his 11.5 sack total from a year ago, but providing a consistent contribution in a role as a captain.
He had three sacks and five tackles in the 23-19 win over Dallas in the season finale, and finished with his most tackles (57) since his Pro Bowl season (68) in 2016.
The Giants recently solidified their secondary with the free-agent signing of cornerback Adoree Jackson, and the linebacking corps has developed into a deep one.
Williams and cornerback James Bradberry together can emerge in leadership roles on a team that has an average age of just under 26 on its current roster.
When he signed his new deal, Williams realized his potential new role. He also how he has found a new home and has enjoyed his new surroundings.
“I think if I allow the pressure to sink in or allow outside noise to start sinking in, then it’s going to take away that fun that I was just talking about that allowed me to play so well,” said Williams at his new conference.
“I don’t want to think about what type of pressure or what other people are thinking. I just want to be the best for my team, be a good leader and give this team as much as I can. That’s the reason why they brought me back for that. I don’t want to put too much pressure on it,”
Good thing. Gettleman and the Giants are counting on it.