FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Leonard Williams looks and sounds rejuvenated as he enters one of the biggest seasons of his professional career.
The Jets defensive end is in a contract year, and he’s playing for coordinator Gregg Williams, who is urging everyone to attack on every play. It could lead to Leonard Williams’ most productive season, which would help the Jets as well as his bank account.
Williams acknowledged after Wednesday’s OTA that he hopes to re-sign with the Jets.
“I got drafted here. I’ve been here for a while. I’m one of the vets on the team,” Williams said. “I get comfortable to where I’m at. I definitely would want to stay here. I feel like I’m a loyal type of player. I never thought about transferring when I was in high school or college. It’s kind of the same now: I would want to stay on the team if I had the opportunity to.”
Whomever the Jets hire as general manager will have some say in whether Williams gets a deal before the start of the season or a long-term deal after it. But coach and acting GM Adam Gase is a fan of Williams'. He said Williams gave him fits when Gase coached the Dolphins.
“I love the way he’s been preparing, his attitude, the way he’s picked up the defense, the way he practices,” Gase said. “He’s really been impressive for me to watch. I’m glad on the opposite side of what I’ve been because it wasn’t fun setting everything up to have two guys blocking him, four hands on him every play. Knowing that he’s on our team is a good feeling.”
Williams has not lived up to the hype that followed him after the Jets picked him sixth out of USC in 2015. He’s had 17 sacks in four seasons. Being double-teamed has contributed to that lack of production, but the Jets are trying to change that.
They acquired inside linebacker C.J. Mosley and drafted Alabama lineman Quinnen Williams, and they should take some of the attention away from Williams. But Gregg Williams could have the biggest impact of all.
Williams utilizes many different fronts and blitz packages and puts his players in positions to make plays. Leonard Williams is looking forward to what he can do under the new defensive coordinator’s watch and leadership.
“There’s just certain things that Gregg expects out of us that help us not react but just attack,” Williams said. “Sometimes it’s ‘If this happens, it’s OK. We have linebackers for a reason.’ It’s like that. It’s helping us get off the ball, attack, attack, attack. I love the mentality.”
Gase and all the players have talked about the extra energy and juice that have been evident at these OTAs. Players who were with the team last year say it’s definitely different.
It was obvious during full-team activities that everyone is feeding off the intensity of Gase and Gregg Williams.
They were very spirited and lively – and loud. The defense does a lot of chirping, especially when it makes a big play. Jamal Adams was talking even when he wasn’t involved, and Gregg Williams’ voice can be heard above everyone.
“That’s one thing I’ve been loving so much is competitiveness,” Leonard Williams said. “It starts with the coaches. Adam Gase is a crazy offensive coordinator and Gregg is a crazy 'D' coordinator. Having them two go at it at practice trickles down to the players, and the players go at it, too. It’s in a healthy way, competition, getting better.”
That has Williams looking forward to this season, and not just because a big payday awaits.
“I try not to think about that stuff and let my play do that,” he said. “At the end of the day, that’s what’s going to get my contract – my play on the field. I’ve been trying to figure out the defense, play as fast as possible and do what the coaches expect out of me and do what I can to help win. By doing that, everything else will come along.”