Call it the Gregg Williams Effect.
When the Jets hired Williams as defensive coordinator it almost instantly indicated that it would be an aggressive unit that got after the quarterback. The defense also was expected to help Sam Darnold and the offense because of all the different looks they would be getting in practice.
It’s taken some time, but now those things are starting to ring true.
Williams has used safety Jamal Adams in more blitz packages recently, and Adams has totaled six sacks in the past three games. The Jets have 16 as a team in that time. They had nine in the previous seven games.
The offense has averaged 338 yards with nine touchdowns in the last three games. The Jets averaged 210 yards with seven offensive touchdowns in the first seven.
Playing against Williams’ defense has helped. There has been a wrinkle in practice lately. Veteran nose tackle Steve McLendon and other starters on the defense are taking reps with the scout team to help prepare the offense for that week’s game.
“I think there is some correlation there,” Adam Gase said. “You’ll see a lot of our starters jumping in on the scout team and Steve is one of the main guys that does that. He jumps in there for a few plays to get some reps on the scout team to really help work against our starting offense.
“Usually when you see teams do that it’s been beneficial because he’s going to do the right thing, he’s going to play things right that the other team’s doing, but at the same time, when it’s one of your better players there’s a toughness there that’s made on the offense.”
You can’t discount the fact that the level of competition the Jets (3-7) have played recently is among the worst in the league — the Dolphins, Giants and Redskins, who have a total of five wins.
But there has been growth and development from players on both sides of the ball. That has to continue when they face more talented teams, beginning this week.
The Jets will try for their first three-game winning streak since 2017 when they host the Raiders (6-4) Sunday. Jon Gruden’s team gives up the sixth-most passing yards in the league, so this could be another good game for Darnold.
But the Jets’ defense will be tested against quarterback Derek Carr (72.3 completion percentage, 15 TD passes, 5 INTs) and running back Josh Jacobs. The Raiders’ rookie is fourth in the NFL with 923 rushing yards.
The Jets have the No. 1 rushing defense, allowing 79.1 yards per game.
It’s even more impressive when you consider that their projected starting inside linebackers, C.J. Mosley and Avery Williamson, have played a total of 114 snaps.
Williams tore his ACL in the preseason. Mosley has played in only two games because of a groin injury. Neville Hewitt, who replaced Mosley as the defensive signal-caller, has missed four games.
Williams has been mixing and matching all across an injury-riddled defense. They haven’t made excuses. Instead, they’ve made a lot of plays.
“They’ve played as a group,” Gase said. “Whoever is on the field, all 11 guys trying to do their job. Something that we keep saying is, 'The play doesn’t care who makes it.' It’s just everybody doing their job, the right guy will make the right play at the right time if they’re doing what they're supposed to do.”
“All three phases, that’s been our focus, and especially on defense. The guys have been doing that versus the run especially and are constantly working on things in the passing game to get that better. I think our guys, their mindsets have been right, and they’ve been trying to figure out ways to improve each week.”