We’ve decided to do a series here on BSL examining the film of many of the players that will make up the 2013/14 Ravens defense. Next in the series is the Ravens’ third round draft pick, Brandon Williams. We’ve already looked at Arthur Brown, Matt Elam, and John Simon.
Join the discussion about Brandon Williams over on the Message Board.
The Ravens drafted Missouri Southern State’s Brandon Williams as the 94th overall pick in the 2013 draft. He is a massive defensive tackle coming in at 6’2, 341lbs and, as you’ll see from the tape, he was a giant among many of his Division II teammates and opponents. But after the emphasis on defense during the recent free agency period and draft, how can a player like Williams be most efficiently implemented? I took a look at all of the film available on this player to attempt to answer this question.
His employment against the rush
At Missouri Southern State, Williams played all over the defensive line in their 4-3, including 1-technique, 3-technique, 4-3 defensive end, and aligning head-up on either guard. The coaching staff often times used Williams’ size on early downs to 2-gap as a 2-tech tackle in order to eat up space in the running game.
Size is a huge asset
As you can see he isn’t just a standard space-eater-type nose tackle. In the above clip, he plays with his head up (presumably reading as a 2-gapper), sheds the block in front of him and shifts down the line to assist in a run stop. The issue some teams have with sluggish pluggers on the line is defending zone blocking offenses that attempt to create lanes by cutting off defensive lineman from their gap responsibilities in the lateral plane. Williams is nimble enough to shift horizontally in order to maintain his assigned gap(s) as shown in the clip below:
Shifting his big body down the line
Williams often showed quickness off the snap and kept his head on the correct side of a zone blocking guard/tackle. The above clip isn’t a particularly dominating effort (as Williams’ eventual tackle would suggest) since the right tackle didn’t have help from his neighboring guard nor did he cut Williams down like backside zone tackles are often taught. Regardless, Williams frame doesn’t seem to hinder him from keeping control of his body and playing smart down the line.
Williams as a pass rushing defensive tackle
At any level, NFL included, defensive tackles rarely get to the quarterback on a consistent basis when called upon to pass rush. Defensive tackles are too often caught fighting in a “phone booth” with mauling interior lineman where speed and quickness only help in a limited capacity. So, when projecting a defensive tackle as a pass rusher, we have to stray from using college sack totals and look deeper into the attributes and skills that each player possesses.
Brandon Williams was able to move and steer blockers ahead of him in order to collapse the pocket from the inside by driving an offensive lineman into the backfield. He was effective when he fired off the ball low and with leverage. However, there were numerous times when smaller lineman were able to anchor and stalemate against him because he played too high:
Left tackle Roberto Limon gives up 50(!) lbs to Williams, yet was able to get under his pads and minimize the power he could use from his huge lower body. Playing a tad high also caused Williams to push with his feet too close together, which resulted in playing off-balance on occasion. This may have been coached to him though. Players maintaining 2 gaps will raise their head in order to read the play in front of them rather than firing through a crease. His frequent 2-gap responsibility may be a cause/effect of playing too upright.
As I mentioned above, there was not much tape on Brandon Williams, so evaluating him was not an easy task. Overall my impression is that Williams is a bit raw. He is almost the same size as Haloti Ngata and shows impressive agility given his frame, but he could be thrown off balance even against smaller Division II lineman. I believe that his versatility on the defensive front is what caught the eye of the Ravens, especially given that Dean Pees likes to show various fronts with different responsibilities for each player. Williams has a high ceiling in my opinion, and I am interested to see how a pro training camp will impact his technique because in his current state, he is a rotational player.
Dan played high school football at Wilde Lake and graduated from McDaniel College with a degree in Psychology. Dan is currently a Maryland Terp working on his PhD degree in Neuroscience. He has experience writing published scientific material as well as blogging for SBNation via Baltimore Beatdown. Beginning in the 2012 season, Dan has been writing about the Ravens focusing on the X’s and O’s of the game of football with heavy use of overhead (All-22) film analysis. The Columbia, MD native currently lives in Silver Spring.