News & Analysis

Kyle Williams: Beast

Throughout 2010 there probably wasn’t a player I praised more than Kyle Williams. Despite playing in a scheme that wasn’t sure whether it wanted to be a 3-4 or 4-3 unit, and with some questionable talent around him, he made play after play after play.

It became pretty standard for me to write a Bills game report and drop some prose as to how great he had been (again). It got somewhat repetitive as he featured at the top of our defensive player of the year rankings (though I did have him down at number two on my ballot behind Justin Smith). Follow that up with selections in our AFC East, AFC Pro Bowl and All Pro teams and you may get the impression that I (along with everyone here at PFF) have a tremendous amount of respect for the season Kyle Williams just had.

But even then it shocked some people that he finished as high as number three on my list of Top 101 players of the 2010. Heck, even some of his biggest fans in Buffalo felt it was a little high.

Well, I’m nothing but happy to explain myself. So here’s the run down on why Kyle Williams slotted in near the top of my rankings.

Dispelling a Myth

Before I get going, I just want to correct a misconception that seems out there regarding the Buffalo Bills and their scheme. The common belief is that Kyle Williams played nose tackle in a 3-4 alignment, when the Bills used far more 4-3 fronts. If you break down the snaps of Williams you get this:

521 snaps (56.26%) at defensive tackle

265 snaps (28.62%) at nose tackle

115 snaps (12.42%) at defensive end

(The remaining 2.7% are plays spent in six-man lines or with his hand off the ground.)


So hopefully when people point out that Williams was playing nose tackle on the worst run defense in the league, they’ll at least realize that wasn’t always the case.

What Makes This Meat Ball so Tasty

Getting back to performance, and in terms of basic numbers, his were mind blowing. Despite constantly being the focus of the opposition, he was virtually unstoppable for most of the year. For pass rushers, I often say sacks aren’t everything and that you need to look at the total number of pressures to get a better idea. So, practicing what I preach, let’s look at the defensive tackles and the total pressure they generated:

PlayerTeamPass RushesTotal Pressure
Tommy KellyOAK45144
Kyle WilliamsBUF44043
Wallace GilberryKC40442
Ndamukong SuhDET57841
Jason D. JonesTEN43640


The interesting thing is that Williams was a far more traditional defensive tackle than all of those. Wallace Gilberry was a situational pass rusher with one purpose, and the other guys on the list had a priority (by design or their own choice) to get up the field at all costs.
While Williams showed himself to be one of the best pass rushing defensive tackles, he also dominated our run defense grading at the position. His +31.4 run defense mark was +7.1 better than the next best defensive tackle on the list, Aubrayo Franklin, a man whose lone dimension is stopping the run. So active in run defense was the man some Bills fans have affectionately christened “Meat Ball” that he finished second in tackles and first in defensive stops among all tackles in the league.

Grading Kyle Williams

Still those are just numbers. Williams isn’t much better than rookie sensation Ndamukong Suh in that regard. Where we really begin to separate Williams from the rest is when you break his performance down. I’ve taken a look at our top five ranked defensive tackles from 2010 who played at least 500 snaps.

PlayerTotal SnapsPositive Plays% of Positive Plays
Kyle Williams92714515.64%
Kevin Williams9249910.71%
Jason Jones6787911.65%
Haloti Ngata91510311.26%
Fred Robbins6748212.17%


As you can see, using the uniform grading methodology that we apply to every single defensive tackle, Williams has a considerably higher amount and percentage of positive plays than others.  Speaking not only about his quality, but his durability – staying on the field for a ton of snaps and maintaining a high level of play throughout.
For any still doubting, I’d suggest looking at a few games. Watch him get the better of Baltimore and in particular the usually decent Ben Grubbs in Week 7. Or how he obliterated the Miami interior in Week 15. One play in particular remains in the memory where he exploded past the block of a center (who tries to hold him) and bulled through the right tackle before dragging the running back down for a loss. It’s one of the best plays you’re likely to see from a defensive tackle and just part of another impressive Kyle Williams performance.
But it wasn’t his most impressive.

The Pittsburgh Game

If you asked me what the best performance at any position in the 2010 season was, then I’d be looking at Week 12 when the Bills hosted the Steelers. While much of the postgame focus was on Steve Johnson and his five drops (including one that would have won the game), I watched in amazement at what Kyle Williams did in his 74 defensive snaps.
It wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty close. 29.73% of his snaps were graded positively, a ridiculously high margin as Williams dominated the Steelers interior for five quarters, with both Maurkice Pouncey and Chris Kemoeatu absorbing the brunt of his ability. Take what Williams did with 5:25 left in the first half: bursting through the A-gap with such explosiveness that neither Pouncey or Kemoeatu can do anything but watch as he engulfs Ben Roethlisberger. Or, with 16 seconds left in the first quarter, shooting off the line so quickly that Pouncey couldn’t pick him up, Williams met Rashad Mendenhall five yards in the backfield as he received the ball.
There are many more highlights, but I’m sure you get the point. It was certainly a game worth re-watching.

Attention on the Way?

Some people aren’t sold on him. They look at how he played on the most porous run defense in the league and assume he couldn’t have been all that great. It’s a flawed logic to judge the performance of one man on the failings of a squad full of underachievers, and really does a disservice to how good Williams was. I will, however, accept that he did beat up on some of the weaker interiors in the league, but then, what player doesn’t take advantage of inferior opposition?
He may not be the most recognizable player in the league, and he may not play for a great team, but is that really how we judge players? You look at the total number of pressures he got, or the total number of defensive stops and you see a player who was always making something happen. You break down the tape of him and it only gets better, with Williams really in a class of his own.
Perhaps the addition of Marcel Dareus will bring more attention to Buffalo’s star defender. Perhaps not. Either way, Kyle Williams is coming off one of the best years you’re likely to see from a defensive tackle.
Whether people realize it or not.

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