In 2006, the Buffalo Bills selected defensive tackles Kyle Williams in the 5th round of the NFL draft. A steal by any measure, let alone a fifth round selection, Williams’ 12-year career has resulted in five Pro Bowl nods and what seems like a sure-fire spot on the Bills’ Wall of Fame. Kyle Williams is synonymous with Buffalo Bills football.
The fan favorite will turn 35 this offseason, making Father Time his most potent adversary. Many hope Williams will return for one more season to build off of a successful 2017 campaign. We turn to the tape to see how much more he might have left in the tank.
This play is hard to get a good angle on, but it illustrate the method behind the Kyle Williams review. With over a decade playing, his technique and skill is already established. We examine then if time has robbed him of the physical ability to play at the level we’ve come to expect. A few things to notice here: he times the snap well and is just as fast as the ends, he is double-teamed but still gets decent push, and that’s a pretty good to try to get the interception for a 300-pound man in his mid-thirties. All the GIFs this week are courtesy of Week 13, where we’d expect age to be about as big of a factor as it would get all year.
This play and the last were both in the second quarter against New England. The Patriots, with goal to go, commit the cardinal sin of leaving both Kyle Williams and Jerry Hughes one-on-one. Both beat their man pretty cleanly and the often stellar secondary leaves Brady with nowhere to throw the ball. The Super Bowl silver medalist QB has to pick his poison. All that’s left is to dive early to soften the impact from Kyle.
From this point on, we jump to the fourth quarter to see if Williams is losing steam. Williams and Lorenzo Alexander engage in tomfoolery at the snap, with Alexander cutting behind Williams. This leaves Williams with a short double team. Williams then comes off his man to flush Brady up to where Alexander has beaten his man and is ready to take down Brady. This will turn into a rough day for most QBs, but Brady expertly navigates a small tunnel and delivers the ball. Both Williams and Alexander show up well physically, with good agility and speed on display.
This the play that taught us all to hate Rob Gronkowski just a little bit more. What caused one of the greatest QBs ever to throw a pass so far short? Kyle Williams of course (and Jerry Hughes). Williams and Hughes come off Brady’s left side and between the two of them, collapse three of New England’s five-man protection. Brady moves right and passes on the move, leading to an errant pass that Tre’Davious White picks off. Also shown in this play is the stark contrast in ability between Williams/Hughes and the rest of the defensive line. This type of pocket is far from a rare occurrence.
At first glance this doesn’t seem like much, but Williams and Hughes go to work again. Hughes anchors his man and Williams gets an excellent early push. Rex Burkhead has nowhere to go as the defensive stalwarts shut down numerous running lanes. The entire team has prepared for this play well but it’s Williams and Hughes turning it completely in the Bills’ favor.
With only 3 sacks (two on Brady) and 21 solo tackles, Kyle Williams’ 2017 seems disappointing. However, he only averages 30.5 tackles per year and 3.6 sacks. A few years have been shortened to injury (2011 and 2015 most notably). However, he has been recognized via Pro Bowl votes for stat lines of 5 sacks/27 tackles and 5.5 sacks/31 tackles. Neither of which are far cries from the 2017 season. Williams has only gone over 5.5 sacks once (2013). Williams has typically shined in the way many tackles have. That is to say, by locking up his side of the field and letting other guys get the stats.
Williams isn’t quite as fast or strong as he used to be, but put up respectable numbers in consideration of weaknesses along the defensive line. But make no mistake, the plays above aren’t anomalies. Kyle Williams was productive this entire last season despite seeing extra attention from the opposition whenever possible.
Williams has earned the right to decide when to hang up his cleats. The Bills’ front office seems to echo this sentiment and will likely let him decide his own fate. As Williams prepares to finalize one more orbit around the sun, the end of his career is likely looming close. If he elects to suit up once more, there are plenty of encouraging signs that he can play at a high level.