Philadelphia Eagles: Leonard Williams could have been unstoppable

(Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images) /

With Leonard Williams headed to the New York Giants, the Philadelphia Eagles missed out on the perfect interior partner in crime for Fletcher Cox.

It happened. It finally happened. After weeks of anticipation, the Philadelphia Eagles have finally made a trade to bolster their defensive rotation by flipping a 2021 fourth-round pick to the Cleveland Browns for second-year defensive end Genard Avery.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love this move, as Avery is a smart, dynamic rusher who can play linebacker in base packages and shift inside to defensive end, but his addition hardly constitutes “something fun“; the phrase used by NBC’s Mike Florio in reference to the now 4-4 team’s trade deadline plans.

Leonard Williams would have been something fun – and of so much more.

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The fifth overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, Williams turned in one of the most dominant college football careers USC has ever seen – amassing 218 tackles, 35.5 tackles for loss, and 20 sacks in 39 games of action.

And then, he went to the New York Jets and played out of position for the entirety of his professional career to this point.

That’s right, despite putting in work with the Trojans from the five-technique as a 4-3 defensive tackle, Williams was asked to kick outside as a 3-4 defensive end primarily tasked with clogging up running holes for auxiliary pass rushers. He still amassed 17 sacks, but that number isn’t all that impressive over a 71-game sample size.

Needless to say, a change of scenery appeared to be the best course of action for both the Jets and Williams before his contract expires at the end of the season, but Joe Douglas traded him to the wrong NFC East team.

Now a member of the New York Giants – a move that requires Williams to neither move apartments or stadiums – Williams will once again line up at defensive end and have his otherworldly interior pass-rushing skills wasted as a run stuffer.

In Philadelphia, he could have been so, so much more: In Philadelphia, Leonard Williams could have been a star.

As we’ve seen over the past three years, Fletcher Cox has been at his best when paired with a legitimately talented defensive tackle.

When he’s playing with Timmy Jernigan, or Malik Jackson, Cox’s game elevates considerably to a near-Aaron Donald-level. However, when he’s forced to share the field with the likes of Hassan Ridgeway, Akeem Spence, Bruce Hector, or Anthony Rush, opposing offensive line coaches and double and even triple-team the All-Pro into submission.

A Cox-Leonard tandem would have been the best duo in the league and made double-teams all but impossible.

With Derek Barnett, Brandon Graham, Cox, and Leonard all sharing the field at the same time, the Eagles would have four legitimate pass rushers capable of collapsing the pockets on quarterbacks. Sure, he would have cost more to acquire than Avery and would cost much more moving forward to retain on a second contract, but that’s because Williams has more pedigree, more experience, and higher upside as a 25-year-old pro.

Next. Philadelphia Eagles could end up with steal after Genard Avery trade. dark

But unfortunately, that won’t happen. Barring something unforeseen, Leonard Williams will sign an extension with the New York Giants this offseason and remain one of the biggest ‘what ifs’ in the NFL. Had things turned out differently, the Philadelphia Eagles could have had their most dominant defensive tackle duo maybe ever, but instead, they’ll have to look elsewhere for a long-term partner to pair with Fletcher Cox.