With the Baltimore Ravens trading away veteran ass-kicking defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to the Detroit Lions, there will now be a changing of the guard up front for the team's defense. Ngata had been a cornerstone since his rookie season in 2006, missing just seven starts in the intervening nine years. Not only was he durable, he was also a wrecking ball on the field. His tremendous power and almost unnatural quickness for a man his size made blocking him a nightmare for most offensive linemen. Ngata was a man among boys most weeks, and he made life so much easier for the linebackers behind him. His departure is a huge loss for Baltimore.
It's also a tremendous opportunity for someone who is willing to step up and try to fill the enormous shoes he left behind. Brandon Williams appears to be just the man for the job.
There's plenty to like about Williams' game when watching him on film, but the two things that stuck out to me were his ability to move laterally and ridiculous motor. You kind of expect big, strong guys to be able to knock offensive lineman back. It is far more uncommon for a 6'1, 335-pound man to also change directions as quickly and efficiently as Williams does. The fact that Williams is as strong as a damn ox, but also nimble as hell, gives offensive linemen fits because they can't just come off and try to match his power lest he simply side step them. On the other hand, they dare not come off tentatively, or he'll knock them on their arse.
Quite the conundrum, indeed!
Williams only played in nine games with no starts as a rookie in 2013. Last season he played in all 16 games and started 14 of those contests. His numbers jumped from only six combined tackles as a rookie to 47 combined tackles last season. I'd expect his tackle numbers to continue to shoot up in 2015 with Ngata gone.
I also see tremendous potential for Williams as a pass rusher this season. I'm not saying he will get close to double digits but, barring injury, he'll do a lot better than the 1.5 sacks he has in his first two seasons. It's worth noting that Ngata never had more than 5.5 sacks in any given season. I think Williams could easily approach those sack numbers this year and more than likely best them.
Ngata was an absolute BEAST in Baltimore for almost a decade. However, Williams can be a monster in his own right. Oh, don't tell anybody, but the truth is he might actually be an upgrade from the Ngata we've seen the last couple of seasons ... I'm just saying.