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How Gregg Williams plans to keep the Jets' defensive line fresh this season

Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams looks on during

Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams looks on during training camp at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center on Tuesday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

ATLANTA – Quinnen Williams continues to impress Jets coaches and is earning his spot in the revolving door that will be used on the defensive line this season.

Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams wants his players to stay sharp throughout the game, particularly late. His plan is to split snaps as evenly as possible among the linemen. Some will play more, but Williams likes what he sees from rookie tackle Quinnen Williams, and the rest of the line, to utilize this approach.

“We’re going to have a great rotation,” Gregg Williams said. “One of the things we do with the defensive line is — and one of the things that Jimmy Johnson copied from us when he was at Dallas and I was at the Oilers — is you can’t expect a defensive lineman to play 100 percent of the snaps. He’s in a fistfight in a phone booth for three hours. How are you going to do this?”

Quinnen Williams could start again when the Jets play their second preseason game Thursday night against the Falcons. Leonard Williams is just returning from a hip injury, and Adam Gase could opt to hold him out along with Steve McLendon.

Gregg Williams said the Jets have just “scratched the surface” with Quinnen, who is making his case to start. But they’ll all get snaps — Leonard and Quinnen Williams, McLendon, Henry Anderson, Bronson Kaufusi and perhaps Nathan Shepherd. Jordan Jenkins and other outside linebackers also could be part of Gregg Williams’ ever-changing front.

The Jets’ base defense is a 3-4, but it won’t be surprising to see Williams play nearly as much 4-3. He’ll mix up things, including his personnel, with the intent of confusing offenses and making sure his players on the line are fresh.

“It’s not like playing the offensive line,” Gregg Williams said. “It’s totally different in the power and the exercise and conditioning of that position. We’ll have a rotation. Our job is as much as we can to get it 50-50 with those guys. Sometimes the ability level makes it 60-40, sometimes it’s 65-35.

“Last year at Cleveland I played some of those guys too much because the guys behind them weren’t ready. Here they’ll be ready, and we’ll try to do as much as we can to keep it an even number of snaps for everybody.”

Three of the Browns’ defensive linemen last year played at least 68 percent of the snaps under Williams, the defensive coordinator and interim head coach. End Myles Garrett was in on 86 percent of them.

Leonard Williams said he likes the idea of playing a little less because it will keep him from wearing down. He played nearly 80 percent of the defensive snaps last year, the most on the Jets’ line.

The Jets expect Williams to have a big season as one of the centerpieces of this defense. The presence of Quinnen Williams could help.

The No. 3 pick out of Alabama, Williams has the versatility to play all across the line. He could be on the field with Leonard Williams, taking some attention away from him and freeing Leonard to be more impactful. Or, Quinnen could play at times in place of Leonard, giving him a rest and keeping him fresh so he can make plays when he returns.

The Jets also think there won’t be much dropoff when Quinnen Williams is playing in place of the veterans.

“He brings a smile to my face,” Gregg Williams said. “He’s done very well. We just scratched the surface with him. [Alabama coach] Nick Saban, a great friend, just scratched the surface with him. Understand how young he is, and he’s going to continue to move up and up.

“Until you get a chance to be with him every day you don’t realize how smart he is. I don’t know what conversations you’ve had with him – don’t be surprised if he makes you look an idiot because he can. He’s very sharp. He has quickly gotten the respect and earned the respect of other players and veterans on the team in how he’s conducted himself.”


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