Brandon Williams Next Dominant Ravens Defender


There's a lot of competition for the Ravens' defensive Mount Rushmore with the likes of Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Peter Boulware, Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs and more.

With the trade of Ngata to the Detroit Lions this offseason, Suggs is the only face remaining of the group.

But there's a new candidate to become Baltimore's next great defender. He still has to put a few more highly productive years under his belt to be mentioned in the same class of those other players, but his head coach spoke of him in that regard.

His name is Brandon Williams.

"He's a guy that you expect to be dominant pretty much every play, and if he's not, you're kind of asking him, 'What's up?'" Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "He has become that kind of a player, which is a credit to him."

Told of Harbaugh's high expectations, Williams said, "I definitely welcome it."

"I expect way more than they do for myself," he said. "You've still got work to do. You can't sit down, relax and get soft because there's always somebody behind you or across from you trying to take your spot or take you out. You've got to keep your nose to the grindstone."

Williams' ascension has been rapid. He came to the Ravens as a third-round pick out of Division II Missouri Southern State. He was a massive but raw product who didn't start playing football until high school.

In his first season, Williams played in just seven games and made six tackles. The light came on in his second year, when he started 14 games, made 46 tackles and a half-sack.

He was rated as the NFL's eighth-best defensive tackle by Pro Football Focus, and the fifth-best defender on the Ravens roster.

With improved technique, Williams has been able to use his massive 6-foot-1, 335-pound frame to not only take on double teams, keeping his teammates free, but to create penetration into the backfield by blowing up the opposing offensive lineman. He was rated by EA Sports' Madden as the Ravens' strongest player and the eighth strongest in the NFL.

Now Williams is poised to take another step. While second-year defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan will technically step into Ngata's position, Williams is the new anchor in the middle of the Ravens defensive line. He's no longer the supplementary piece to Ngata.

"He's just so much more relaxed, so much more experienced," Defensive Line Coach Clarence Brooks said. "Awfully talented, physically, and he's able to show it. So, he's able to play a lot faster. [He's] tremendously strong and a great presence for us in the middle."

But Williams has become such a prominent figure for more than just his improved play on the field. He's also becoming a leader in the locker room.

"He has been tremendous in the meeting room with [rookie defensive tackle] Carl Davis," Brooks said. "It's really a joy to see how he interacts with the other guys after a year, and that's been good."

Williams said Ngata had the most impact on his growth. Williams took notes on how Ngata was a professional with small details such as how to take care of your body, diet or weight lifting. He took note of how the Pro Bowler practiced and worked each day on his craft.

"I'm still in my third year, so I'm still keeping my nose to the grindstone," Williams said. "I catch myself coaching the other guys. If something happens, I kind of take them to the side and show them what they did wrong and tell them what to do on certain plays.

"When I do something wrong, before [coaches] even say anything, I'm like, 'Yeah, I know [Brooks].' I'll sometimes go up to them and be like, 'You're going to see something on tape. I know. I know what I did.'"

Williams has also become popular*among his teammates and fans *because of his bubbly personality.

Williams was never a bashful guy. He arrived in Baltimore with video of him walking on his hands and stories of him throwing port-a-potties on trailers to display his raw strength. As a rookie, he displayed his smooth singing voice in front of the team at training camp meetings.

Williams talked about learning a lot from Ngata, but one thing he didn't copy exactly was his pre-game rituals. What's Williams' routine?

"I'm goofy," he said. "I dance."

In the past couple weeks, Williams has drawn countless web headlines with those big-man moves. Williams was the gem of an impromptu pre-practice dance to techno music with Suggs, Chris Canty and Lawrence Guy. Before heading to Philadelphia this week, he posted a video of himself doing "The Carlton."

It's amazing that Williams is so goofy given his tough background.

He and his mother, Shelly Washington, a single parent who worked two jobs on the factory lines and drove a bus, were technically homeless for six months during his freshman year of high school. They kept most of their belongings in their car, bouncing around to live with various family members.

"When you get comfortable, you realize you've got a huge family right here," Williams said. "Once that happens, you're all out there, your vulnerability, your emotions all show. They're your brothers. If you can't relate to your brothers, who can you relate to?"

When Suggs eventually moves on, Williams will be the biggest personality on the Ravens* *defense. Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley is already a Pro Bowler, but he's very reserved. Cornerback Jimmy Smith is on his way to that level, but he's super chill. Not Williams.

"You're not around him for 10 seconds, and you're laughing about something – something he said [or] he's imitating somebody. He's a pleasure to be around," Brooks said.

"He's quite a talented guy, but he better stick to being a defensive tackle – that's where his money is going to be made." 

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