Giants' Leonard Williams knows how to fix lack of pass rush following Week 1 loss

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Leonard Williams flexes with mask on
Leonard Williams flexes with mask on

This Giants defense comes into the 2021 season with high expectations following a big leap in 2020. Patrick Graham schemed well around his team despite lacking a very important factor in today's NFL that playoff teams normally showcase as a strength: the pass rush.

Leonard Williams was a main reason why the Giants got pressure last season, and his new luxurious contract signed this offseason was a result of that production. But Sunday's performance against the Broncos saw Teddy Bridgewater coming up with big plays left and right, especially on third and fourth downs. And a lot of that was due to an inconsistent pass rush.

Speaking on Monday via Zoom call, Williams told the media that he thought the defense overall played well. But they needed to get to Bridgewater more.

“From what I’ve seen watching film is we were focusing on getting middle push and not giving Teddy a step-up area," Williams said. "I think we did a good job of collapsing the pocket in front of him and not allowing him to step into his throws.

"But, like you said, we weren’t being consistent in making him feel uncomfortable. I think what we have to do is while we’re getting that middle push and stopping the step-up lanes, we also have to get off the block and get hands on the quarterback.”

Credit to Bridgewater for making something out of nothing on some plays, but the Giants' defense had ample opportunity to turn their 21 hurries into more sacks. They had just two and one of them came from S Logan Ryan with the other being credited to rookie Azeez Ojulari.

There needs to be more pressure up front and Graham surely knows that watching film on Monday. Looking at the Pro Football Focus stats, Williams had two quarterback hits and four hurries for six total pressures, which is a solid start for the Pro Bowler. Dexter Lawrence and OLB Lorenzo Carter also had four hurries apiece. But nothing much from anyone after that.

As is always the case, the secondary can only cover for so long, meaning the pass rush needs to force a throwaway or get the quarterback to the ground. The Giants may have had Bridgewater on his heels but they could never finish.

Now they have a quick turnaround against a Washington Football Team that will be without Ryan Fitzpatrick and is instead going with Taylor Heinecke at quarterback. While inexperienced, he's shown grit in his starts for Washington, so he shouldn't be underestimated.

Williams says that short rest could be a good thing not just for the defense, but the team as a whole.

"Coming off of a loss, people are obviously going to be in their heads about it a little bit. But like you said, I’ve been in this league long enough to know that good teams will look at this short turnaround as an opportunity to get that bad taste out of how mouth.”

Giving up 27 points isn't what this defense is capable of. A few adjustments need to come from Graham, but ultimately, the pass rush needs to generate something more than what was on display in Week 1.