Due to how well-received my Zach Orr scouting summary was, I’ve decided to continue profiling linebackers during the slow news cycle. This time, I turn my focus towards Antwione Williams, the Lions’ 2016 fifth-round pick out of Georgia Southern. Despite being part of a weak linebacking corps last year, Williams saw limited play time, participating in just 19.8% of the team’s defensive snaps while missing only two games.
After a quick Twitter poll, democracy decided that I profile Williams rather than newcomer Paul Worrilow. Following Deandre Levy’s release, and the team’s selection of Jarrad Davis in the first round and Jalen Reeves-Maybin in the fourth, the situation is cloudier than it has been in recent memory. I break down what Williams’ strengths and weaknesses are, and project how he factors into the roster moving forward.
Name: Antwione Williams
School: Georgia Southern
Experience: 1 year
Position: ILB, OLB
DOB: 5/26/1993 (24yo)
Team: Detroit Lions
Weight: 240 lbs.
40-yard dash: 4.80s
10-yard split: 1.70s
Bench press: 23 reps
Games played: 14
Games started: 3
Games won (win percentage): 9 (64.2%)
Team captain: no
Defensive scheme: Williams plays in Teryl Austin’s scheme which relies on 4-man fronts and stunts to create pressures, and heavy use of zone coverages.
Injuries: Was listed as doubtful in Week three (did not play) and questionable in Week four (played) with a hamstring injury.
Key stats: Logged 27 tackles and one fumble recovery in limited playing time (participated in just 19.8% of team’s defensive snaps in 2016).
Best of: Block shedding, gap leveraging, play speed, zone awareness
Worst of: Tackling in space, aggressiveness, blitzing
Mental processing: 4/7
Athletic ability: 5/7
Play speed: 5/7
Play strength: 5/7
Competitive toughness: 4/7
Inside run/POA/tackling: 4/7
Outside run: 2/7
Zone coverage: 4/7
Man coverage: 4/7
Ball skills: N/A (sample size not large enough, therefore I am not able to confidently provide a grade I feel is accurate)
2016: 9/18 vs. TEN, 10/02 at CHI, 10/30 at HOU, 11/20 vs. JAX, 12/04 at NO
At first glance, Antwione Williams looks the part of an NFL linebacker. At 6’3”, 240 lbs., he has very good size for the position. Couple that with a pair of long arms and big hands, and you’ve got yourself a pro linebacker. Williams also has good athleticism, especially considering his size. Although he’s not a freak (at least not by NFL standards), he possesses the plus speed, quickness, and change of direction ability that teams covet nowadays. Furthermore, he demonstrates a solid grasp of the game and sees the field reasonably well. In short, he checks all of the boxes.
Williams does a solid job of defending the interior run, and is particularly adept at stacking and shedding blockers. He utilizes his long arms well by stabbing them into the framework of blockers and dictating to them at the point of attack. He plays with patience and discipline, and leverages his gap responsibilities appropriately. Additionally, he makes good use of his hands when fighting blockers. Ball carriers looking to cut against the flow will have trouble finding a hole because Williams does a good job staying home. When the shoe is on the other foot, he does a good job of leveraging ball carriers towards his teammates who lay in wait. Linemen looking to maul easy prey should turn their attention elsewhere, as Williams has the strength to grow roots against climbing blockers. When opposing teams run outside or play the screen game, Williams has the range to make plays on ball carriers. He takes good angles in space and often finds himself in a position to make plays.
While he was knocked for his coverage abilities at Georgia Southern, he has demonstrated good zone awareness for the Lions. Furthermore, he plays with proper eye discipline and reads a quarterback’s intentions well. He shows a good feel for slot receivers trying to sneak up behind him in zone and squeezes throwing windows accordingly, all while maintaining a line of sight to the quarterback. While he isn’t as good in man coverage, he has the necessary tools (namely, short-area quickness) to become a plus man defender.
Unfortunately, Williams has a few glaring flaws that have thus far prevented him from realizing his true potential. My first grievance is that he often plays too patiently. He flashes good instincts, but doesn’t trust them often enough. He waits for plays to materialize, rather than making them. Similarly, he needs to demonstrate more reactiveness in breaking on the ball from zone. While he’s a solid competitor that plays with a good motor, you’d like him to show more aggression in order to make more plays. Fortunately, he improved in that regard as the year wore on.
Secondly, his tackling leaves a lot to be desired, particularly in space. Williams seemingly defaults to flailing arm tackles, especially on the perimeter. He doesn’t come to balance as a striker, ducks his head into contact, and misses way too many tackles as a result. (For you Xbox players, think too much pressing X and not enough pressing A.) And even when he doesn’t miss, he leaves his feet and affords ball carriers yards after contact while he drags them down.
Furthermore, Williams is not an effective blitzer. Despite displaying good timing and having the necessary physical traits to be a quality pass rusher, he doesn’t properly utilize his tools when blitzing. He doesn’t attack with a plan, doesn’t use his arms or hands, and lacks a pass rush arsenal. In coverage, he needs to do a better job of leveraging properly towards his help. When pursuing outside runs, he occasionally issues himself more challenges than necessary by taking questionable angles around blockers. He also doesn’t consistently keep his outside arm free and gives blockers the opportunity to tie him up.
As it currently stands, Antwione Williams is a good, versatile backup with starting upside. His skillset lends itself well to playing any stacked (off-ball) linebacker position, but it likely translates better to playing inside. If he can become a more reliable tackler and play more aggressively, he’ll stand to capitalize on his potential and make a push for a starting role come 2018.