It took only two plays to see what kind of talent Brandon Williams has.
He was lined up over the right guard with his feet wide and his weight leaning on his toes. When the play began, he fired off the line of scrimmage with a wicked right step and locked up with the blocker. He bent his knees and then watched the quarterback hand the ball off to the running back, who took the handoff and looked to run downhill. Williams wasn’t going to be having any of it; he separated from the blocker, nimbly moved parallel to the line of scrimmage, and dived forward to bring down the runner.
Nose tackles who are 6’1″ and 335 pounds aren’t supposed to move and make plays like that. They’re supposed to be big, sloppy, and strong, and unable to do more than “tie up blockers,” as the old adage goes. The Ravens’ third-round selection has a unique skill-set, however.
He was stuck in the basement of football competition, where few saw his Missouri Southern State University games over the course of the last four years, and he impressed. Knee-bend was evident, quick feet were present, and his upside was through the roof. Williams, who spent his days cleaning portable bathrooms when he wasn’t clashing with opponents, played in three and four man fronts in college, spending time as both a defensive tackle and a defensive end.
In one game against Lincoln University, Williams came off the edge as a five-technique defensive end (outside shoulder of offensive tackle) and leaned to engage with the offensive tackle. When he did, he jarred the blocker back and then extended his arms, keeping the blocker at a distance.
And then Williams did something unexpected. With his right hand, he pushed away the blocker’s left arm, dipped his shoulder, turned his right hip inward, and turned the corner. This was a moment of pass-rush brilliance from a nose tackle playing end.
Williams’ combination of technique, flexibility and athleticism was impressive on that last play, but many see it and say, “he did that against Lincoln? So what.”
And they’re right — it is only against Lincoln. The odds are slim that the Lincoln right tackle is eventually an NFL player. But when Williams was at the Senior Bowl, all he did was face players that were going to be drafted into the pros only months later. He held his own and the Ravens took notice, taking him in the third round (94th overall).
“He’s like a fire plug in there,” director of college scouting Joe Hortiz said. “He’s tough to move. He bends really well, keeps his pads down. His Senior Bowl performance, he completed well and never seemed overwhelmed on the big stage and really held his own throughout the week and in the game. We’re really excited to get him.”
Against soon-to-be New York Jets guard Brian Winters, Williams showed all of the traits that were witnessed earlier. In addition, he also displayed an impressive first step and strength.
In the one-on-one drill, Winters was at left guard and Williams lined up at the three-technique, just outside the left shoulder of the blocker. Once the matchup began, Williams stuck out his right foot and forced the blocker to slide over to account for a potential inside speed rush.
When Winters slid over, Williams moved back outside and used his right arm to club the left shoulder pad of the blocker. Williams lifted him off the ground and then exploded forward, rushing after the coach playing quarterback. It was a nasty blend of quickness, power and explosiveness that few can match.
There were certainly many flashes at the Senior Bowl showing how Williams racked up 27 sacks in college, where he was versatile enough to play on both the inside and outside of the defensive front. Now he goes to the Ravens, a team that will likely use him primarily inside at nose or under tackle. There he’ll have to compete for playing time with a host of names, including Haloti Ngata, who is moving inside more often this season.
But if Williams continues to develop his game, particularly his understanding of leverage, he’ll kick Ngata back out to defensive end, which will increase his snaps. It’ll also make the Ravens’ defense better, as it’s safe to say that it’ll help the team to have a nimble-footed, king-sized lineman clogging up running lanes and rushing passers relentlessly.
Lead pic via Seahawks.com