Defensive Lineman Leonard Williams
Q. (Offensive tackle) Andrew Thomas was with us the other day and said that closing the gap on the Eagles starts up front on both sides of the line. With Philly, the guys you've battled for years, (Eagles defensive tackle) Fletcher Cox, (Eagles offensive tackle) Lane Johnson, (Eagles defensive end) Brandon Graham, have been there so long. He said it starts up front on both sides. Do you feel that way, that for the Giants to get where they want to be, the defensive line and offensive line have to take them there?
A: Absolutely. I mean, even outside the Eagles conversation, or any other team for that matter, that's something that we go into practice saying, that's something that we go into every meeting saying and that's something that the D-line takes pride in. We always talk about being the engine of the defense and the engine of the team. I think that's something that our team prides ourselves in, winning up front on both sides of the ball.
Q. You're a little older than some of those guys – I'm sure you want to be here for some of it – but can you envision a day where Thomas and (outside linebacker) Kayvon (Thibodeaux) and (offensive tackle Evan) Neal and (defensive lineman) Dex(ter Lawrence II) are the new Graham and Cox and Johnson and those guys? Can the Giants have that kind of 10-year core that the Eagles have?
A: That's a tough question. It's hard for me to try to compare teams that way. I don't want to say that they're going to be like the Eagles or anything like that, but I definitely see some great players over here on both sides of the ball. Andrew Thomas leading the way on the offensive side, and Dexter Lawrence and Kayvon on this side of the ball. I think a lot of those guys are still just starting to touch their prime or haven't even gotten to their prime yet. I think they're going to have a long, great career in this league.
Q. As a guy who's been in the league for a while and one of your main goals is stopping the run and having to deal with running backs, what do you make of this whole running-backs-not-getting-paid situation that's going on here? When you look at that position, do you say, 'Man, I fear the running back,' or, 'I fear the quarterback and the receiver?' What's your take on all of that?
A: It's definitely something that's interesting that's been going on this offseason. I try to usually focus on myself and what I can do and better myself and things like that. But at the same time, I think it is unfortunate that that's the one position that seems to not be getting the respect that they deserve. I think having a running game definitely balances out the offense and makes D-linemen have to play both things. If we just knew it was going to be pass every play, it would be a different game. I think that running backs definitely bring a lot of value to the offense.
Q. When you worry about the next day's opponent, do you think, 'Oh my God, we've got to deal with this great running back,' or this great quarterback and receiver? What keeps you up at night?
A: Three things for me: I focus on the offensive line that I'm going against first and then I focus on the quarterback and then the running back. The quarterback is definitely the engine of the offense and the offensive lineman I'm going against is the guy that I'm going to have to beat, regardless of what type of play it is. So, I focus on them the most. But at the same time, there are times where we play against great backs, and we put a lot of emphasis on stopping the back in order to stop their offense. When we played against Seattle last year, their running back was playing really well, and that's something that we talked about as a defense, making sure that we stopped that running back, which was going to slow down their offense.
Q. How much did you guys, looking back on last season, miss (outside linebacker) Azeez (Ojulari) being out there with you for more games, frankly, than he was?
A: Azeez is a great player to have on the team. He's a great player to have on the field. It's unfortunate when guys ever go through injuries and stuff like that. When he was on the field, he was very productive. I think having him out there is always a great thing. I think he's focusing a lot on taking care of himself and taking care of his body to make sure that he is out there as much as he can be.
Q. When you watch him play and everything, do you look at him as a player now happy to be back with his teammates and on the field playing the game he loves?
A: Yeah, for sure. I think he has a natural feel for the game and natural feel for pass rushing. I think it's smooth the way he pass rushes. It doesn't seem like he has to try too hard. I think it's great to have all four of us, and even the more additions that we added to the team, just healthy on the field when we're called upon. We're trying to create more bond between us all this year and work together.
Q. What kind of things have you been working on from last year to this year to become more of an impact player?
A: Coming off of the Azeez question, I also missed a few games last year for the first time in my career. That's something that I pride myself on most of my career, being healthy and being durable and being ready to go when called upon and so this offseason, I definitely focused a lot on my body. Knowing that I am getting a little bit older and knowing that I have to apply myself more in the training room and keep up with things on my body is going to be important going forward for me.
Q. There was so much attention on the transaction, you going from the Jets to the Giants, and you kind of answered with that 11-and-a-half sack year. Is that your best year in your opinion, or is that just the numbers saying it's your best year?
A: That was one of my more productive number years. But the year after that I also had a career high in tackles and stuff like that as well. I wouldn't say that that was my only productive year, but it was definitely, in terms of sacks, my highest year.
Q. You were with (former Jets cornerback) Darrelle Revis for a couple of years during his second stint with the Jets. Obviously, he's going into the Hall of Fame this weekend. Can you tell me in your opinion, what kind of player this guy was, what kind of teammate he was and what your reaction is for him going to the Hall of Fame, a guy you played with?
A: He was obviously a lot older by the time I got there, but he was a great teammate. Overall, what I liked about paying attention to him is just how he carried himself. He was very poised and humble. No moment seemed too high or too low for him. He was just kind of even all the time. I think that kind of shows a great player to me because he trusts in his ability and trusts in himself so that he doesn't have to get super rah-rah, he's not low about making a mistake or anything like that, he's onto the next play and he stays pretty even.
Q. Did you see the Hall of Fame coming for him even though it was late in his career, knowing what he accomplished?
A: Just knowing his career in general, I thought of him as one.
Q. This is always the day when I guess camp really starts for the linemen, right? Pads go on. How has your perspective changed on this day? How do you handle when the pads go on and what that's going to be like every year?
A: I think that was a good question of how's my perspective changed, because I think it has changed a bit. When I was younger and leading up into it, even just maybe a year or two ago, that first day of pads is super rah-rah, everybody's getting super excited, ready to run into each other again. But at the same time, we've been working our technique and taking care of each other as a team pretty well and competing pretty well so far that I don't want any of that stuff to go out the window now that pads are on and now just go full speed and lose technique and stuff like that just to make big hits. I think that's something that we've been focusing on as a team, not losing fundamentals and technique now that the pads are on and still taking care of each other – because we're going to need everybody.
Q. Since everybody's been ragging on you about your age, I'll ask about somebody older. Can you talk a little it about what Nacho (defensive lineman Rakeem Nuñez-Roches) brings to the defense and how good is it to see him back out there after the accident?
A: It was great to see him back. Glad nothing happened to him during that accident. But also, he's just a great guy to bring into this building and to bring it to the defense. He has great energy, and so far, he's been playing the run really well. I think he's going to be a great addition on the D-line.