After Leonard Williams suffered a wrist injury in the summer that kept him in a cast for the first six games of the regular season, the third-year defensive lineman was cleared to play without the cast in Week 7. Since, he's totaled 11 quarterback hits.
"I'm feeling really good physically," said Williams, who's tied for third in the NFL and leads the Green & White with 17 QB hits. "In the beginning of the season — I don't want to give any excuses — but I could see on film that my wrist was definitely affecting me. I was playing with a cast and I see that I wasn't really shooting my hands as effectively as I could have. These last few games before the bye, on film, it looks completely different. I've been able to shed people, I've been able to use my hands, get off of blocks and just be more effective."
Williams is on pace for 27 QBH, two more than last year's total. Since removing the cast, Big Cat has also racked up 18 tackles, three of which were for loss and 1.5 sacks. Even though Williams' stats have spiked since becoming fully healthy, head coach Todd Bowles' expectations haven't fluctuated.
"I expect him to be disruptive and be a good player," Bowles told reporters on a conference call. "Heck of a player and make some plays to help us win."
Looking ahead to the final six matchups of 2017, the 6'5", 302-pound Williams is focused on wreaking havoc for opposing quarterbacks that include a handful of the league's top signal callers, starting this weekend with Panthers' signal caller Cam Newton.
"I don't really want to put a number on it, but I want to keep playing the way I've been playing the last four games," he said. "Consistency all-around. I've been way better in the running game, I've been able to get to the quarterback a lot and I'm just trying to keep up that production."
This weekend's matchup poses a difficult task for Williams the defensive line as Newton is perhaps the premiere dual-threat quarterback in the league. The 6'5", 245-pounder ranks second on Carolina with 436 rushing yards while averaging 5.9 yards a clip and he's also scored four times on the ground. However, the defensive line will have their chances to bring Newton down as he's been sacked 23 times, which is tied for 17th in the NFL.
"They have a lot of plays designed for him to run the ball like the option, QB sneak, and QB draw," Williams said. "Even if you rush him too high, he'll just take off right up the middle, so it's going to be key for the defense to affect him as much as possible. He's the main threat on the offense. We're going to have to disrupt him, hit him, batt balls down and make sure we close the pocket like we did against Tyrod (Taylor) against Buffalo."