The most important defensive player for the New York Giants is Jacquian Williams. Not Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Corey Webster or Antrelle Rolle, but Williams, the Giants’ 2011, sixth round selection.
The reason why may have to do with the position he plays and the attributes he possesses. Without a doubt, he is the one linebacker on the roster who can play all three downs. And because the Giants did not address the position in the draft or during free agency, it is important that Williams develops as expected.
When the Giants drafted Williams out of the University of South Florida, he was seen as speedy and athletic, but too raw to play defense immediately–a likely special teams contributor. And you were lucky if you could find a scouting report on him, he was that obscure of a pick.
Yet, at his pro day, Williams sizzled, clocking 4.53 seconds in the 40 yard dash, a remarkable result for a linebacker. When his rookie career commenced and injuries to Jonathan Goff and Clint Sintim occurred, he went from special teams to the regular defense, playing the hybrid linebacker-safety role in the Giant’s nickel package.
The 6-3, 224 pound player had to cover receivers and tight-ends as well as “spy” mobile quarterbacks like Michael Vick. In his second year, he was hampered by injuries, playing in just 10 games. The team hopes he can remain healthy like he did his rookie year. But the expectations will be greater this time.
The next evolution in Williams’ game will be his ability to hold up against the run, taking over full-time duties at weakside linebacker.
Though linebacker was a perceived area of need for the Giants, the team did little to address the position group this offseason, which reveals the team’s belief in the 24-year-old. The Giants released starting weakside linebacker Michael Boley and neglected to draft one in April. They only made two minor moves at the position: signing former Dallas Cowboy Dan Connor to a one-year minimum deal and resigning the oft-injured Keith Rivers.
The lack of any major move has left the team with a younger core of ‘backers: Spencer Paysinger, Mark Herzlich, Jake Muasau and undrafted free agents Etienne Sabino and Charles Dieuseul. The team could add another veteran before the start of camp this summer.
As of right now, 11 weeks before the start of training camp, Williams is looking like the man, which is the team’s foremost player at the position.
The Giants place more emphasis on their defensive front and secondary, but Williams’ role will be important, particularly when the Giants face teams that feature mobile quarterbacks like the Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, Green Bay Packers, Carolina Panthers and the Seattle Seahawks, teams on the 2013 regular season schedule.
The Giants like to play their three-safety, sub-package scheme which features just one linebacker on the field, and Big Blue goes to this look a lot. Williams is expected to be the sole linebacker on the field in this situation, which means he will be the only one on the field in every defensive situation (in all likelihood). So it’s important that he stays healthy.
If Williams is able to step up this season and be the complete linebacker that the team envisions, all that clamoring for position help will die down. And Giants fans will realize that the team had its solution all along.
Tacuma R. Roeback is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @TacumaRoe, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google+