DL Leonard Williams
November 23, 2020
Q: How excited are you to be playing meaningful games during the month of December where a division title is on the line?
A: In terms of football and football knowledge and awareness of the season and how it goes, people always say the realest football is played around these months after Thanksgiving. This is definitely the time where you have to play some of you best football. We didn’t really have preseason this year, so those first few games of the season were kind of like the warmup games. We’re kind of past that halfway marker, so we just have to tighten things up a little bit tighter. Make adjustments and just keep moving forward. We just came off of a bye week, so people should be feeling fresh and ready to attack the rest of the season.
Q: Is there more of an excitement for you? This is like playoff football going into December. Every game is important.
A: Yeah, for sure. I haven’t been to the playoffs yet, I got close one year when I went 10-6 with the Jets my rookie year. Since then, I haven’t really been close to going to the playoffs. That’s kind of far down the line still. Like I said, we just finished close to midseason. It’s kind of hard for us to look that far ahead. If we do something like that, we might mess around and overlook a team. We really have to focus week by week. Right now, we have the Bengals and we’re looking to go 1-0 after this bye week. Try not to look too far ahead like that.
Q: When you watch yesterday’s game like I assume you did, is it a disappointment to see a guy like Joe Burrow go down? Were you interested to see him on the field? Is there a fear that there might be a letdown now that you’re facing a backup?
A: To answer that first part of the question, I think it does suck to see any type of player get injured in this game. I know you hear it a lot, people say it’s above the sport. No one wants to see someone that we play with, we respect their grind and everything like that, to get hurt. I was definitely looking forward to playing against him. He’s a great talent. Hopefully he recovers really fast.
Q: Is there something going on technique wise or coaching wise that is helping you finish plays that maybe earlier in your career you weren’t able to kind of get home?
A: Sometimes a lot of stuff plays a part. We have a good secondary that can help the quarterback hold the ball for that split second longer when we have corners plastering their guys. We have a lot of different blitzes that help out. We’re moving around. I’m playing three technique, I’m playing five technique, I’m playing outside, moving all around. I think a lot of that stuff goes into it. Coach Spence (Sean Spencer) and coach Pat (Patrick Graham) have been doing a good job coaching.
Q: You have stood up on a couple of plays. Have you ever stood up?
A: I don’t prefer to stand up. I think it just depends on what type of look I’m getting from the offense. Sometimes when I’m out there at defensive end they will put tight ends or receivers in a crack position to where they get flexed out from the line, but they are still tight to the line. They are looking down at you, that’s when I will be able to stand up and fill it and read it a little bit better. When I see that tight end or that guy that’s flexed out trying to crack me a little bit better when I’m standing up compared to when my hands are in the dirt. That’s the only time, it’s just situational football.
Q: Is that a haircut?
A: No, I had practice today. I just braided it up old school.
Q: With what happened to Joe Judge and Marc Colombo last week, is there something about the Joe Judge style that is more demanding, more serious, more buttoned up? Is it something where maybe some players will take to it and some players will not take to it?
A: I don’t really know what part of the question to answer. I don’t think him and Colombo had anything to do with the way he coaches. His style of coaching is good for players who want to win and want to play hard, practice hard, and understand that your practice is reflective of how you play. Guys that are willing to buy into a program are going to do great under a system like that. There’s obviously some guys who are a little bit harder to coach and little bit harder to get to buy into systems. They might be a little bit harder to fall into line. At the same time, when you’re a part of this team, you kind of feel the atmosphere of everyone buying in. Even those guys that are a little bit harder to coach, once they see the rest of their teammates buying in, they will come along eventually, too. I think it’s a great way, the way we practice. I think it shows we have a tough team. I feel like after losses or wins we go right back to work. I think it’s a hard-hat type of team that wants to work and grind.
Q: Is it more demanding that maybe some other guys you’ve played for?
A: I wouldn’t say it’s crazy strict or way too demanding. It’s what you would expect out of a football team. It’s always a little bit more demanding in season. At the same time, I feel like I do work hard, and I feel like the team works hard. I feel like everyone is bought in, which is the most important part to me. I think the leadership that he has, you feel literally the whole team is bought in. Like I said, after a loss or a win you feel the energy of guys ready to get back to work. I feel like that’s a little bit rare. I’ve been on teams where we will be losing, and you will immediately start feeling guys start to go their own way, tetting upset with stuff and start to fall apart a little bit as a team. Even in the beginning when stuff was going rough, guys were sticking to together and staying close and fighting through stuff together. I think that’s important.
Q: You might get Tae Crowder, (Xavier) McKinney and (Oshane) Ximines back this week. Or soon if not this week. What will that do in terms of boosting the defense in terms of reinforcement?
A: It will definitely help our defense. Our defense has been going in the right direction. Those are just more weapons to add on. They’re all young players. Tae Crowder has definitely improved and stepped up in the beginning of the season and did a lot for us. Zay (Mckinney) is finally going to be able to come back and play with us, which everyone is excited about. I know they are going to bring a lot of energy and are excited to be back with us as well.
Q: This defense is not full of Pro Bowlers or star players. I think if I’m not mistaken you are the only guy who has ever made a Pro Bowl. Have you guys rallied around the no stars, all as one, kind of overachieving mentality?
A: I don’t know if it’s like the no star mentality. I don’t think we look at it in that aspect. Something the coaches have implemented in our mind is when you walk into that door, leave your ego out of it. We don’t care where you came from. If you were a first rounder, if you were a non-drafted guy, everyone is coming in here to work today. We’re going to treat everybody fairly and everyone the same. I think that type of system is what makes people bought into one big picture. I think the fact that our defense has all 11 guys that are bought in on one big picture makes everyone play better. The better we play up front is going to help our linebackers. The better the linebackers play and we play is going to help the secondary. Vice versa, like I was saying earlier, sometimes when the corners are plastering the guys, it helps us get home up front. I think it’s just one big working system.
Q: As a player on the team, when you first hear there is a coaching change in the middle of the season, what goes through your head?
A: I think it’s definitely a shock. I don’t care what type of job you have, if anyone gets fired, it’s going to be a shock to anyone in the workplace. I really don’t understand what was going on, so I feel like it wasn’t in my place to try to figure out what was going on. That being said, I didn’t really pick it apart or try to find details about it. I just figured it was something between them and something that had to happen upstairs. It’s not really in my payroll. I just come to play defensive end in the defense. Try to be the best leader I can be in my position. It was definitely a shock, that’s really all I can say.
Q: From a defensive perspective, what do you think this defense needs to do in order for you guys to be a playoff team?
A: Just play four quarters. I think a lot of times we show signs of greatness and we can be great. I think there’s times on third downs with some teams we will be lights out and just unstoppable on defense on third downs. There’s times where we give up too many plays on third down. I feel like that’s just the nature of the game. It’s not a perfect game, but you just want to work as much as possible to make it a full four-quarter game. Start fast, end strong. Red zone, all the big things, just try to finish.