Quinnen Williams talks on reporting day at Jets training camp in...

Quinnen Williams talks on reporting day at Jets training camp in Florham Park, New Jersey, on July 26, 2022. Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

FLORHAM PARK, N.J.— The answer was delivered without a nanosecond’s worth of hesitation, a testament to how convinced Jets defensive lineman Quinnen Williams has become about how good this year’s defense can be.

“This defense can be spectacular,” the fourth-year lineman said Tuesday as the Jets reported for training camp. “The sky’s the limit.”


Not that a player shouldn’t be confident in his and his team’s outlook for the season, especially as they come off a refreshing few weeks of R & R. But spectacular? The Jets? Really?

This is a team that gave up an eye-opening 504 points last season — the most of any team in the league — with one four-game stretch featuring a meltdown that included 175 points allowed. Do the math, and that’s 44 points per game.

Now they can be spectacular? Seems like a stretch, even for the most wide-eyed optimist.

But Williams remains convinced that things will be markedly better in 2022 than they were in 2021. A few reasons:

•  Pass rusher Carl Lawson, who was dominating in training camp early last year before being felled by a non-contact Achilles injury in a joint practice with the Packers, is back and close to 100%.

•  First-round rookie edge rusher Jermaine Johnson, acquired through an aggressive trade by GM Joe Douglas during the draft, will bring added juice.

•  So will first-round cornerback Sauce Gardner, a superb cover man who can make it that much easier on a defensive line by giving them more time to get to the quarterback by staying tighter to receivers.

•  And the Year 2 factor: It’s the second year of Robert Saleh’s defense, so there isn’t as much learning required, allowing players to be that much quicker without having to think things through on the fly.

Oh, and there’s Williams himself. The No. 3 overall pick from the 2019 draft comes into camp the healthiest he has ever been, and the fact that he’s no longer rehabbing from a fractured foot he suffered in April 2021 and a shoulder ailment from late last season means he has had a complete offseason to get ready for what he believes will be a big year.

“Not being able to train [is a] setback, and there’s a lot of catching up to do,” he said. “Now, it’s just full throttle and work on your craft and work on what you want to get better at. Just attacked the offseason, got better nutrition-wise and condition-wise to be the player I want to be.”

The Jets have never really seen that player, at least on a consistent basis. Yes, there have been flashes of greatness, but never the extended stretch of excellence you need to get from good to elite. Williams believes he’s at that point now, in part because he lost “a lot of weight, got muscle mass where I wanted it to be. I feel much lighter, I feel more in shape, especially coming off the injuries.”

Williams won’t say exactly how much weight he has shed — “Go ask the nutritionist,” he joked — but he looked noticeably trimmer.

“It’s like if you drive a truck with a boat on the back, once you drop that boat, it’s smoother,” he said. “Being quick on your feet, you get off the ball, run to the ball, give effort every single time you’re on the field. Being able to get in the best shape of my career, best weight, best muscle mass, being able to be the best player I want to be was a big thing.”

And that could mean more of a reward than just additional wins and better overall team defense. Williams also has a potential contract extension looming, and there’s no better way to state your financial case than to have a big year on the field.

“Contract is not really a big thing in my head right now,” he said. “I feel like it’s going to work itself out. All I can control is each and every day of training camp and putting my best foot forward.”

As Williams likes to say, the sky’s the limit.

Now we find out whether it’s just talk or a legitimate sign of progress.

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