His best player was traded away in a blockbuster deal that laid a strong foundation for the future but left the present much less certain.
His second-best player won’t be in uniform after opting out of the season because of family concerns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
There’s uncertainty in the secondary, still more at linebacker and even some on the defensive line.
What does the man responsible for overseeing what’s left have to say?
“I’ve been through those situations before,” defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said Thursday in his first public comments since safety Jamal Adams was traded to the Seahawks and linebacker C.J Mosley announced he would forego the season because of the coronavirus situation. “I think the comfort level of other players and seeing the responses of how we’ve reacted to that in other places, but even here, [is good]. We went through a lot of that defensively last year, and the next-man-up [mentality] and how we adapt to those things.”
You will not find a more confident, more self-assured coach than the 62-year-old Williams, a one-time high school coach in Belton, Missouri, who has grown into one of the top defensive minds in the NFL. He has seen just about everything in his time in the game, so going into a season without Adams and Mosley is simply not as big a deal to him as you might think.
And he’s not simply talking a good game here. Williams truly believes he’ll be able to make things work — and work well — without his most talented players.
“If we’re any good at what we’re doing,” Williams said, “we should be able to adapt, we should be able to improvise and the more experience with those things helps out with the confidence of those around you.”
Adams can thank Williams for helping the fourth-year safety get in position to dictate his own terms — i.e. force his way out in a trade — because of how versatile he became in the Jets’ defensive scheme. A sure-tackling safety who could blitz the quarterback as well as provide adequate pass coverage, Adams commanded a hefty compensation price from the Seahawks. The deal netted the Jets first-round picks in 2021 and 2022, as well as a third-rounder and veteran safety Bradley McDougald.
“Jamal’s a really good young man,” Williams said. “I really enjoyed the time with him and wish him the best. I let him know that. I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve been through a lot of these scenarios before, and now the focus and energy is here, the young men here, the teammates here. Everything is good. Wish him the best, really do.”
Williams suggested playing in Seattle will require some adjustment on Adams’ part, especially after how many roles Williams asked him to play.
“Jamal might get bored there because they don’t use their safety type things and all the different complexities as much as we do,” the coach said. “We’ll still do a lot of the same exact things, but we’ll highlight the people we have here.”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll took umbrage at Williams' assessment of Adams' role in Seattle, telling Seattle's KJR radio on Thursday, "We don't make as many mistakes as [Williams] does." Asked to assess what Adams brings to the Seahawks as a pass rusher, Carroll cracked, "He's not bringing Gregg Williams with him, that's for sure."
Williams is particularly impressed with the 29-year-old McDougald, an underrated player who had a combined five interceptions over his last two years as Seattle’s starting strong safety. Adams had just two interceptions in three years with the Jets.
“[McDougald] is very, very good,” Williams said. “I love those kinds of guys that have had to prove himself, undrafted and able to do the things he’s done on the field, off the field. He carries himself with a nice, healthy chip on his shoulders. He’s intelligent, he works extremely hard. The thing that makes it or breaks it for you is that you’re not afraid to work when nobody else is looking and you’re not afraid to push yourself even harder when nobody else is looking.”
Nope, not much worries Williams these days. The mentality stays the same, even if the players are different.
Next man up.