FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — C.J. Mosley saw how the offense was lined up and started screaming “left!” over and over. Le’Veon Bell took the handoff and quickly was bottled up by a defense ready for the run to its left side.
This is why the Jets signed Mosley during the offseason. The four-time Pro Bowl inside linebacker is the leader of the defense. He is the play-caller, and he has the green light to adjust on the fly and the uncanny ability to make the right call based on what he sees.
“It’s having a quarterback, man. We got a quarterback on the defense,” coach Adam Gase said after practice Sunday. “The [middle] linebacker has to be mentally very sharp. Having an experienced guy that knows how to do that and has been in systems like that to where he can make some adjustments in-game on a certain play.
“I’ve never been around anybody that’s been able to be that type of guy, and I’ve been around some good players. He’s the best one I’ve ever been around.”
The Jets gave Mosley a five-year, $85 million contract to be the center of a defense that should be improved under Gregg Williams. When the aggressive defensive coordinator addressed the fans at Sunday’s open practice, Williams ended it with “they want to defend MetLife Stadium for you guys.” The crowd roared.
The Jets have some holes, but Williams, with all of his different personnel groupings, is expected to design ways to mask them. Having Mosley and his playmaking and play-calling abilities should help as well.
Mosley was the leader of the NFL’s top defense last year in Baltimore. He has made four Pro Bowls in his five NFL seasons, totaling 597 tackles, 43 for loss, to go with nine interceptions, 8 1⁄2 sacks and six forced fumbles.
“Everywhere he goes, he always has an impact,” said Jets left guard Kelechi Osemele, who played two seasons with Mosley with the Ravens. “He’s going to have an impact. He’s a smart player. He’s an instinctual player. He’s a ballhawk. He’s going to be around the ball. He’s flying around. He’s going to be athletic.”
The Jets believe they have two special young players on defense in Mosley and third-year safety Jamal Adams, who also was calling out plays Sunday and was part of the first-team defense that shut down the Jets’ first-string offense.
“He let me know that he was all over the place,” Gase said of Adams. “He was crushing me today.”
From that standpoint, Mosley is the exact opposite of Adams. Adams is always talking, in everyone’s ear, playing with swagger. Mosley lets his play do most of his talking, but when he does say something, he has everyone’s attention. “Different guys express their feelings different ways,” he said. “I’m more of a quiet leader. I do more things on the field by example. It takes all our egos to make this defense go. We got Jamal in the back that’s going to be the talker. We got Leonard [Williams] up front. As long as we’re all on the same page it doesn’t matter who talks and who doesn’t talk.”
Gregg Williams does a lot of talking, too. Gase has been impressed with how he relates to his players, who have been raving about their coordinator, how he prepares them and pushes them to be the best they can be and how he demands it from them.
“He’s always testing,” inside linebacker Avery Williamson said. “Every day it’s like, ‘What do you want to be? Do you want to be great or what?’ It’s a constant push, pressure to be great.”
Mosley has no problem with that. He was one of the top linebackers in the game before teaming with Williams and now is looking forward to working with him.
“It’s exciting,” Mosley said. “Our first three days when we started in the spring, we didn’t talk about the defense or personnel or anything. We talked about the culture of our defense, how we’re going to step on the field, how we’re going to have our mindset.
“From that day, that’s how we took it. We wanted to come on the field, having a toughness mindset, having the most physical and mental toughness and the most conditioned defense.”
Mosley is the quarterback of it, and in the middle of everything it does.