Avery Williamson definitely rose above his station to find success with the Tennessee Titans. The fifth-round pick managed to become a regular member of the starting lineup by the end of his rookie season, and he stayed there for all of his career with the Titans.
In March, Williamson’s rookie contract expired and he signed a multiyear free agent contract with the New York Jets. More specifically, it was a contract that placed his salary among the highest-paid players at his position.
Williamson’s deal with the Jets was for $22.5 million over the span of three years, an annual average of $7.5 million. The Titans reportedly offered him a contract with an annual average of just $3 million.
Avery Williamson was offered a 4 year, 12 million dollar deal from the Titans. He turned it down. Told the Jets and Dolphins are interested per source. (More background from @CameronWolfe below) https://t.co/7oV0cXZ4Zg
— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) March 12, 2018
On Monday, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News released a story that included some very interesting quotes from Williamson and his new head coach, Todd Bowles. In the article, Williamson expressed frustration over his lack of playing time with the Titans.
“It was a weird situation,” Williamson told the NYDN regarding his lack of playing time in 2017. “Honestly, I don’t know. But they didn’t want me to play certain downs… I was definitely offended by that all last year. Like I said, it wasn’t my decision. Now I’m here and I’m definitely going to get the opportunity.”
Williamson also offered this declaration: “I want to be that presence on the field: An animal that’s going to be around the ball.”
In the article, Mehta offered the opinion that Williamson “is expected to be a ferocious, heat-seeking missile.” He backed that up with a quote from Coach Bowles, who called Williamson Williamson “a tackling machine.”
Several Titans fans on Twitter have expressed how bizarre this article has come across to them, and that is absolutely the appropriate reaction. This article further shows that Williamson may be one of the most misunderstood players in the entire NFL.
Now let’s get one thing straight: as a person, Avery Williamson is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. He always answered my questions to the best of his ability and talked to me about coverages and defensive schemes as if I was one of his teammates.
Unfortunately, he was just never that great a football player for the Tennessee Titans. The stat sheet may indicate that he was, as Bowles said, a “tackling machine.” However, as we all know, stats can lie.
If you watch film on Williamson, particularly from the 2017 season, you will not see a player who flies around the field and embraces contact. You will not see “an animal that’s going to be around the ball.”
What you will see is someone who rarely makes splash plays who earns most of his tackles by finishing work that another player has started. Of his 92 tackles in 2017, just over half of them were solo tackles.
You will also see a player that, to put it bluntly, is terrible in coverage. It’s rather ironic that Williamson’s best play of the season, a crucial forced fumble against the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football, came after he had been badly beaten in coverage by TE Jack Doyle.
The biggest illustration of Williamson’s ability, or lack thereof, in coverage came in the Titans’ wildcard matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs. Matched up one on one with Pro Bowler Travis Kelce, Williamson was completely toasted. Kelce just ran straight down the field, right past Williamson, and was wide open for a touchdown.
Not only was this not an isolated incident, but plenty of players who aren’t as good as Kelce made Williamson look silly. Admittedly Kelce is one of the best pass catchers in the NFL, but can the same be said about players like C.J. Fiedorowicz and Jack Doyle, both of whom have had their way with Williamson?
It is truly puzzling why so many fans and analysts around the NFL think as highly of Williamson as they do. Earlier this year, Adam Wells of Bleacher Report called Williamson “one of the most valuable and under-the-radar free agents this offseason,” adding, “He’s capable of disrupting games as a run-stopper, pass-defender, and pass-rusher.”
The fact of the matter is, he isn’t. Any Titans fan or analyst who has closely watched all of Williamson’s career to this point should agree.
The reason that the Titans reduced Williamson’s playing time to 60% of defensive snaps is that they didn’t think he was a three-down linebacker. That was an accurate thought.
Williamson has no room to be offended by his lack of playing time in 2017. It was caused by his own, repetitive, shortcomings.
Cover image via the New York Post.