Second year nose tackle Brandon Williams struggled for snaps last season, managing just 93 over the course of the season. But after a strong and healthy offseason, Williams finds himself at the top of the Ravens depth chart, starting at nose tackle. Nose tackle is one of the most important positions in a 3-4 defense, meaning Williams performance will have a big impact on the rest of the team. Against the Redskins last Saturday, Williams showed he’s ready for the step up.
The first priority for any nose tackle is to stop the run. Williams came up with two strong plays on the Redskins opening drive deep in the Ravens half.
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Williams lines up directly over Redskins center Kory Lichtensteiger. Washington are running a zone stretch play to their left.
Williams makes a great read off the snap, detecting the direction of the run. That allows him to quickly gain leverage on his block, staying low and using his strength to drive his defender into the backfield.
Williams does a good job not getting over-excited and trying to make the big play. Williams could have easily attempted to run over his block and try to make a huge play on running back Alfred Morris in the backfield, but would have created a big cutback lane in the process. Instead, he maintains control of the block, squeezing the running lane for Morris. Morris can’t burst through the hole at full speed because Williams has squeezed it shut. Williams also does an excellent job giving himself the option to go either side of his blocker, covering any potential cutback from Morris.
Williams didn’t make the tackle on this play, but his role in limiting this run was essential. A few plays later, Williams did register the tackle.
This time Williams takes a slight outside shade over the center’s right shoulder.
Center Lichtensteiger makes a mistake off the snap, playing too high. Williams takes full advantage, getting underneath his pad level and gaining leverage.
Williams drives Lichtensteiger back again and makes a read on the running back. He nearly gives Morris a chance to cut back, but is able to reach out and grab onto Morris, wrapping him up for a tackle for loss.
Those kinds of plays, especially in the red zone, are tone setters for the defense. When the nose tackle is able to make that sort of impact in the run game, it helps the rest of the defense around him. Haloti Ngata at defensive end will benefit, rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley will benefit. Williams must continue to play at this high level, but if he does, the Ravens will be tough to run against this season.
Typically, nose tackle’s aren’t seen as pass rushing threats. Williams often found himself being subbed out in obvious pass rushing situations this preseason. But he also showed that his strength can be a useful tool when rushing the passer.
Washington found themselves backed up in their own half. They run a play-action pass on first down. Williams is once again lined up over the center.
Williams gets another good jump off the snap, slanting to the left of the center. He again manages to win the leverage of the block, staying under the center’s pad level.
Williams reaches hip level of his blocker before the quarterback reaches the top of his drop. Left guard Shawn Lauvao comes across to help out his struggling teammate.
Williams spots the help arriving and spins back inside.
He lands a hit on Robert Griffin III as he throws, forcing the ball to lack velocity and fall incomplete.
Williams pass rush still needs plenty of work, there were occasions that he was blocked at the line of scrimmage by one man, when he shows here he really should be able to provide more push. But as a nose tackle, his run defense comes first. If he’s able to provide a rush on top of that, which he shows here he is more than capable of doing, then that’s a bonus.