Among those not wearing a helmet at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, no one other than (perhaps) Adam Gase will be more important to the Jets’ fortunes than Gregg Williams.
Such is the faith that supporters and the Jets themselves have in the famously fanatic defensive coordinator, that his mere presence widely is expected to lift his unit to a level not necessarily evident on the depth chart.
We will know soon enough, but in the meantime, fans should be happy to know that Williams already has on his game face for the opener against the Bills.
“Done practicing now; now it’s for real,” he said Friday in only his second news conference since the start of training camp. “So let’s get ready to roll. The guys are excited about playing.”
“Excited” is the operative word with Williams, 61, who to no one’s surprise plans to unveil a dynamic style in an attempt to harry the Bills’ young quarterback, Josh Allen.
“Our guys here enjoy the aggressive style, not only schematically, that’s just one thing, but the technique within the schemes,” he said. “We’re not a reactionary defense; we’re attacking.”
To make that happen, Williams has made conditioning an emphasis, even beyond the NFL norm. “We want to play hard and fast and keep on playing,” he said, “and if we stay faster and faster and harder for longer than everybody we play against, then that’s what we want them to do.”
Williams’ greatest challenge might be using an aggressive attack despite a cornerback corps that could be a weak spot. He said of that group, “We have to keep them healthy, but they’re playing solid.”
When asked about another perceived weakness — an apparent lack of elite pass rushers — Williams gushed.
“I think there are a lot of people here that people are going to be shocked about by the time the season’s over,” he said. “We have a lot better people here than everybody gives us credit for. You haven’t heard me say one thing about needs in that area.”
Williams said his linemen offer flexibility “with multiple positions and multiple guys.” That includes rookie first-round draft pick Quinnen Williams, whom Gregg Williams praised as “a sharp young man. I don’t worry about him at all.”
The new coordinator has fostered an intense but good-natured culture in which players are free to talk trash to coaches, who happily return fire. On Friday, safety Jamal Adams chirped at Williams about beating him to work. Williams was ticked off — not about the trash talk but about Adams showing up before him.
“I’m a competition-oholic,” he said. “Not only me, but every one of these cats. These guys love to compete.”
He added, “That’s what keeps me going. I love being inside the white lines in practice every day — and on game days especially.”
On Sunday, it finally will be that time again.
The Bills’ Andre Roberts, a Pro Bowl kick returner for the Jets last season, will miss the game with a quadriceps injury. For the Jets, wide receivers Robby Anderson and Braxton Berrios and cornerback Trumaine Johnson were limited in practice and are listed as questionable but are expected to play.