INDIANAPOLIS – Leonard Williams hasn’t been the defensive difference maker he was expected to be. But new Jets coach Adam Gase is expecting big things from Williams this season.
Gase has studied Williams’ game even before he came to the Jets. As the Dolphins coach and offensive play-caller the past three years, Gase watched plenty of film of the Jets' defense.
He has spent some of the past month poring over film of each player. Gase said Williams will fit well in new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ aggressive scheme.
“He was always very challenging for us to go against,” Gase said at the NFL Scouting Combine this week. “We’d always account for him. We’d try to double him. He’s hard to stop. We basically could not run the football because of him.
“He was always very disruptive in our games. We struggled in pass protection against him, he was very disruptive.”
The Jets still need an impactful edge rusher, and they will look to fill that void either in free agency or with the No. 3 pick in next month’s draft.
Unless the Jets trade down, they could be in position to take Kentucky outside linebacker Josh Allen or Alabama tackle Quinnen Williams at three. It’s hard to foresee Ohio State’s Nick Bosa falling to them.
There was a belief that the Jets would go to a 4-3 base under Gregg Williams, but they’ve decided to stick with a 3-4 defense. Gase said part of the reason is so the players are comfortable and familiar with their defense and “we’re not completely starting over.”
That could increase the chances of free-agent lineman Henry Anderson returning, and should bode well for Leonard Williams.
“He fits in very well for us,” Gase said. “What Gregg has planned for him and the multiple things that he likes to do with players, he’s going to fit in with our defense just fine.”
There have been questions about Williams’ future with the Jets after some unproductive seasons.
Williams, who turns 25 in June, has had just seven sacks the past two seasons and 14 in his four-year career. He has 85 quarterback hits in that time.
There was speculation that the Jets could look to see what they can get for Williams on the trade market. That seems unlikely now. The Jets can sign Williams to a long-term extension this offseason, but that’s probably not in their immediate plans.
If they wait and he has the type of season and impact Gase believes that Williams will, he could be in for a very big pay day.
“I never look at the sack numbers,” Gase said. “I’m always going to look at pass disruption. How many hits on the quarterback does he have? How many pressures does he have? Then you throw in the sacks and now your number is going to look the way you want it.
“A lot of times when you have a defensive lineman that’s causing all kinds of pass disruption, you’re going to get interceptions, you’re going to get fumbles, you’re going to get quarterbacks making the wrong decision a lot of the times. I think he does a good job disrupting the quarterback.”