The annual call to improve the pass rush takes us to Williams who has been the nation’s most efficient rusher over the last three years. He has 109 pressures on only 380 rushes since 2014, affecting the quarterback on 28.7 percent of dropbacks while the FBS average is only 10.0 percent. He has the burst and power to carry that to the next level, but there are questions about his every-down value as he’s only been on the field for 127 runs during that time. It may not matter as unleashing him as a pass-rusher immediately upgrades the Colts defense that must add playmakers this offseason.
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Obviously, pass rush is a major need for the Colts, as the defense has struggled generating consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Sep 11, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) is hit by Indianapolis Colts outside linebacker Erik Walden (93) as he throws a pass for a touchdown to Detroit Lions running back Theo Riddick (not pictured) in the second half at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Lions won 39-35. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Currently, the Colts are tied for the 22nd least amount of sacks with 17 total sacks on the season. Their leading pass rusher, Erik Walden, is more of a run-oriented linebacker by trade, yet his 7.0 sacks are ‘tops’ on the team.
Walden’s also set to become a free agent at season’s end.
It’s worth noting that no other Colts defensive player has more than 2.0 sacks respectively on the season. Essentially, it’s been Walden with few consistent sack contributors otherwise.
The team’s longtime veteran pass rusher, Robert Mathis, could be playing in his swan song with the team, as the 35 year old hasn’t made much of an impact this season.
Clearly, there is a much-needed ‘changing of the guard’ required regarding the Colts stalling pass rush.
As far as the Colts draft needs go, it should be pass rush, pass rush, and more pass rush–rinse and repeat.
At 6’4″, 237 pounds, Williams is a bit undersized as a pass rusher, but makes up for it with his speed and explosion coming off the edge.
Oct 22, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Tim Williams (56) sacks Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Trevor Knight (8) at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
In his senior season, Williams already has 8 sacks, 23 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles, and a pass defensed in 9 games. In his ongoing 4 year-tenure with the Crimson Tide, Williams has 20 sacks in 4 seasons with a career high of 10.5 sacks just last season.
Despite the production, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some lingering concerns, as Williams was arrested on a gun charge in late September of this year, and also may be deployed as purely a pass rushing specialist–having not played many snaps against the run in his collegiate career.
What I liked: Williams has all of the tools to be a top-tier pass rusher. He is extremely explosive. His first-step quickness is outstanding and he has very violent hands. He lacks polish and technique but he wins a lot of one-on-one battles because of his pure athleticism and raw power. His favorite move is a stutter/bull rush but he also has a nifty spin move that he uses late in the down after his first charge has been stopped. He is very effective when he’s used as a looper, working together with the defensive tackle to get after the QB. His snaps are limited and that allows him to play with maximum effort every play.
Nov 12, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Tim Williams (56) sacks Mississippi State Bulldogs quarterback Nick Fitzgerald (7) at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Where he needs to improve: He needs to improve as a run defender in order to become an every-down player. He’s played very few snaps on run downs, which makes this part of the evaluation nearly impossible. He flashes the ability to stack and hold the point of attack but he will also get caught running upfield and take himself out of position. He also needs more reps as a dropper from the outside linebacker spot. That will be required from him at the next level.
Biggest takeaway: The first name that popped into my mind while watching Williams — Ziggy Ansah. Both players were very raw on college tape but it’s easy to project their success at the next level. They are both ultra-twitched-up and play very hard. They don’t have the same frame (Ansah is taller/longer), but their playing styles are very comparable. Ansah has emerged as one of the top edge rushers in the NFL and I believe Williams has double-digit sack potential as well.
Of course, a lot can change in the draft evaluation process between now and early May–including the Colts order of draft pick and Williams’ ultimate stock respectively.
Nevertheless, it’s never too early to begin kicking the tires on potential Colts prospects that could be there for the taking in the 1st round of next year’s NFL Draft.
Impact pass rushers like Williams are always held at a premium in today’s passing league, so while he has some ‘warts’, he also seems like an intriguing pass rushing prospect for the Colts consideration at this time.