Like most defensive players, Leonard Williams visualizes himself hitting the opposing quarterback.
This week, though, that image came with a jarring twist. Because Williams is so new to the Giants, having been traded from the Jets less than two weeks ago, he still has some Jets rules imprinted in his brain. And one of those rules in practice was to not hit Sam Darnold.
“I randomly thought in my head, ‘What if I beat somebody and go to tackle Sam and I let up because I can’t hit him?’ ” Williams said with a chuckle on Thursday. “But no, that won’t happen, though. I’ll finally get to tackle him, that’s going to be fun. It’s going to be great.”
Williams’ presence in this game brings an added layer to the rivalry and makes what usually is a distant relationship a lot more intimate. Jets coach Adam Gase, for instance, said his team will have to change its offensive cadences, code words and audibles. “We’re aware that he’s practiced against us quite a bit, heard a lot of different terms and things like that,” Gase said. “We have to be smart about that.”
Williams also said he’s been peppered with questions by his new teammates about the Jets’ offensive line. Asked why the Jets’ offensive line has struggled this season, allowing a league-worst 4.6 sacks per game, Williams said it stems from its lack of cohesion.
“I think possibly just because of chemistry,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell some of the D-line guys here. They have some new pieces, they had some pieces go down, some pieces replaced and stuff like that. As it is with any team, if your guys don’t have enough chemistry, it’s going to be hard to work together. That’s one position group that has to work together the most.”
Williams led the Jets in quarterback hits during his time there, but he has yet to record a sack this season.
“I know he would love to get something going,” Gase said. “Get a sack or a tackle for loss. He wants to play well.”
This would seem a timely opportunity to notch one.
Notes & quotes: A day after visiting concussion specialists in Pittsburgh, wide receiver Sterling Shepard was throwing passes with teammates and running on the side during practice on Thursday. He remains in the concussion protocol, which he re-entered on Sunday after being cleared from it the previous day, and he was listed as a non-participant in practice. Pat Shurmur said the Giants are not considering putting him on injured reserve. “We’re just trying to get him well and get him back on the field,” he said . . . Shurmur said center Jon Halapio (hamstring) is “a ways away” from returning and that Spencer Pulley likely will start at the position. Right tackle Mike Remmers (back) did not practice on Thursday. If he is unavailable, Nick Gates will start.
With Al Iannazzone