FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Gregg Williams isn’t worried about the Jets’ injuries at cornerback and won’t give in to the widespread belief that it’s their weakest link.
The Jets defensive coordinator, as confident a coach as you will ever meet, said his unit will be fine. That’s because the fiery Willams believes in himself, what he and his coaches are preaching and teaching, and he has faith in the players.
Williams, who has coached five top five defenses, is known for mixing coverages, using many different personnel groupings and devising schemes that cause fits for opposing coaches. New Jets offensive line coach Frank Pollack said when he first met Williams, he told him he’s “a pain in the [butt] to game plan for,” and that he’s happy to be in the same building with him.
The Jets may need some of that mad-scientist Williams to help their secondary. He feels his process will be the remedy.
Following Tuesday’s practice, Williams said it’s “mandatory” that every player on his defense learns to play at least two positions. He has no qualms putting a defensive back at linebacker or a linebacker on the line. It’s not all about depth chart with Williams. It’s “next best athlete” and “next man up” in Williams’ world.
“Some of these guys have already pushed on to the third position,” Williams said. “That’s how you battle the injuries. That’s how you battle through a game and not having to change drastically because it’s next man up. Guys play multiple positions.
“They take great pride in being the next man up. When they prove that to other teammates, their stock in the locker room goes up because their teammates say, ‘I can trust you.’ That’s the whole thing: Respect and trust is earned.”
Starting cornerback Trumaine Johnson is “week to week” after suffering a hamstring injury in Sunday’s practice. Undrafted rookie Kyron Brown jumped into some first-team action Monday and suffered a hamstring injury.
Arthur Maulet and Tevaughn Campbell got some first-team reps Tuesday, alongside Darryl Roberts. Brian Poole remains the slot corner.
“Everything is good,” Williams said. “This is a good group of guys, good young group.”
Williams said this before the Jets signed seventh-year cornerback Marcus Cooper, who was waived by the Lions. Cooper also played for the Cardinals, Chiefs and Bears, totaling 154 tackles and seven interceptions in 74 games. The Jets will see if he can fill a hole and add depth.
On Monday, Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams offered to play corner if needed. Williams didn’t dismiss the idea, but it hasn’t been discussed.
“He can do it,” Williams said. “There’s no doubt about it. We haven’t even crossed that bridge with him because he’s learning other positions, too. But he’s a good enough athlete to do that.”
Williams, entering his 29th NFL season, said he’s played a safety at cornerback multiple times, including in Super Bowl XLIV, where he was the Saints' defensive coordinator and they beat the Colts.
Jets general manager Joe Douglas will continue to look for reinforcements. But Williams isn’t sweating it. He said he would coach the players he has and get them ready for the Sept. 8 opener against the Bills. But it’s up to the players to perform and show they can do that in the preseason and in the practices that Williams makes spirited and competitive.
“You’ve seen in this division Coach [Bill] Belichick do a great job with the next man up,” Williams said. “You got to do that in a game. Schematically, we’ll do everything we can for them. Then it’s time to play. If you belong in this league, you got to show up and you got to get ready to play.
“We get a chance to get a really good evaluation on our guys in practice because of how hard and fast we practice. So you get a chance to see it almost be game mode. Some places in the league it looks like a walkthrough in practice. How do you evaluate guys in a walkthrough? You can’t."
Williams enjoys this challenge, though.
“It’s part of it,” he said. “Not only do the players earn the trust of each other, but I have to earn their trust, too. They understand I’ve been around a little while and do a lot of different things and seen a lot of different things.”