After Tim Williams demolished backup Rams quarterback Brandon Allen and the Ravens recovered the fumble, the second-year edge rusher crawled on all fours.
He pretended like he was a hungry dog who finally got to eat. The analogy was pretty spot-on.
Williams was drafted because of his talents as a pass rusher. After not getting any sacks as a rookie, then coming so close without any of the reward in last week’s preseason opener, Williams finally feasted Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium.
“That’s my bread and butter,” Williams said after the Ravens’ dominant 33-7 win. “That’s what I’ve been doing since grade school. … You can’t catch me off my heels now – I’m back on my Alabama stuff.”
Williams was a pass-rushing terror who logged 18.5 sacks over his final two seasons at Alabama. When he was entering last year’s NFL draft, one NFC area scout said, “He’s like the Predator.” Tell him to destroy the opposing quarterback and he’ll often get the job done.
The Ravens grabbed Williams, who got some late-first round buzz, in the third round. There was a lot of excitement about his potential, but Williams, literally and figuratively, had a lot on his plate last year.
Thinking he had to bulk up to withstand the physicality and rigors of the NFL, Williams weighed about 270 pounds at the start of the season – about 20 pounds heavier than he should have been. And for the first time ever, he had to learn how to play special teams and be a more all-around linebacker.
“At Alabama, I was a third-down pass rusher,” Williams said. “In the league, I had to learn how to play special teams, punt return, kickoff return. There was a lot of things on my learning curve in my rookie year.”
Williams played in just eight games and registered five tackles as a rookie. More comfortable in Year 2, and now down to 248 pounds, his best attributes are starting to show.
On just 41 pass rush snaps, Williams had six hurries in the Hall of Fame game. On Thursday night, he got his first sack since Aug. 17, 2017 – nearly a full year ago.
Williams immediately had the Rams’ right tackle scrambling to match his speed off the snap. Williams then dipped his shoulder under a lunging block attempt and had a free lane to the quarterback. His huge hit immediately popped the ball out.
Two days before Williams’ sack, it was as if Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale called his shot.
“I think he’s rushing better now than I’ve ever seen him rush,” Martindale said Tuesday. “He’s becoming the player we thought he was going to be when we drafted him. He’s going to be a premier pass rusher, I think, in this league.”
The Ravens have a lot of talented outside linebackers with starters Terrell Suggs and Matthew Judon (who also both got sacks Thursday night), Tyus Bowser, Za’Darius Smith and Kamalei Correa. Williams will likely be used in a rotation to keep everyone fresh, and could be deployed late in games to help finish off opponents.
But Williams also knows that he must do more than just rush the passer to get on the field, and that’s what Head Coach John Harbaugh pointed to after Thursday’s game.
“The pass rush – obviously, tonight everybody saw it – and that’s what he has been doing in practice,” Harbaugh said. “But he’s playing the run defense very well, too. I’m pretty happy with how Tim is doing.”
Williams said he “embraced the moment” of getting a sack, but he’s also trying not to get too excited because it’s just the preseason and he knows he has a lot more work to do.
“Yes, it’s encouraging, but my focus right now is on special teams and doing what I can do to help my team out on special teams,” Williams said. “I’m just building and getting better every day.”