Coordinator Gregg Williams' command of the Jets' defense has allowed...

Coordinator Gregg Williams' command of the Jets' defense has allowed coach Adam Gase to focus most of his energy on the offense this season.   Credit: Jim McIsaac

Adam Gase’s in-game calls have warranted some criticism and second-guessing. But his call to hire Gregg Williams as defensive coordinator has been far and away his best move.

There’s no second-guessing that.

Williams’ defense is one of the main reasons the Jets have won five of their last seven games. That defense also kept the Jets in some games earlier this season when Gase’s offense was tripping over itself.

The Jets’ offense wasn’t as bad as Pittsburgh’s in the 16-10 victory over the Steelers on Sunday. But it was Williams’ defense that preserved that game, notching four sacks and a pair of takeaways.

And after Mason Rudolph threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Diontae Johnson, who simply ran by Jets rookie cornerback Bless Austin and was wide-open in the end zone with four seconds left in the first half, it was Williams’ call to bench Austin. Gase didn’t second-guess it. He supported it. He has given Williams the autonomy to make those calls.

“I hired Gregg Williams for a reason,” Gase said on a conference call Monday afternoon. “That was to do exactly what he’s been doing, and that’s putting in the culture that we’re looking for, the attitude we’re looking for, the swagger that we’re looking for.

“I’m not here to micromanage all the things that happen on a play-to-play basis. If that’s the move that they feel they needed to make, they’re always going to get a yes from me. I don’t think I’ve ever really stepped on anybody’s toes in that aspect of it. I trust that defensive staff as far as making those decisions. If I ever did feel that I needed to step in, then I would.”

It’s hard to argue with the results.

The Jets have been decimated by injuries on both sides of the ball, but the defense has thrived despite the loss of some key pieces.

Safety Marcus Maye, who had an interception in the end zone in the first half and broke up a pass in the end zone on the final drive, and nose tackle Steve McLendon are the only defensive players who have started every game.

Linebacker C.J. Mosley has played only two games. Avery Williamson was lost for the season during the preseason. Top cornerback Trumaine Johnson also is on injured reserve. Yet the Jets have the No. 2 rush defense and are seventh in total defense.

Jamal Adams is having the best and most dominant season of his three-year career. Williams also has turned to a number of unheralded players who have made an impact.

Linemen Kyle Phillips and Foley Fatukasi, linebackers Neville Hewitt, James Burgess and Terrell Basham, and Arthur Maulet and Austin in the back end have done more than anyone expected.

Austin had been starting and playing well, but Williams apparently saw some things he didn’t like Sunday that led to his removal from the game. Maurice Canady replaced him in the second half.

This is the exact reason that Gase hired Williams. Having someone with Williams’ experience and success rate has given Gase the peace of mind to put most if not all of his attention on the offense and developing Sam Darnold.

Gase hinted that that wasn’t always the case in his three seasons as the Dolphins’ coach.

He had Vance Joseph and Matt Burke as defensive coordinators. Gase said that as his time went on in Miami, he “got more involved” with the defense. “Part of the reason” he hired Williams was to avoid that.

“I hired Gregg to do a great job with that side of the ball,” Gase said. “The move that they made, that’s what the game called for. That’s why I’m fine with it. Our guys are going to put the players out there that they think can help us win that series or win that down.”

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