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Quinnen Williams' learning curve is on the upswing

Quinnen Williams, left, knocks down a pass by

Quinnen Williams, left, knocks down a pass by Miami's Ryan Fitzpatrick, one of two passes defensed by Williams in the Jets' 20-3 loss to the Dolphins on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, at MetLife Stadium. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Jets as a team and organization have made many head-scratching decisions this year, but one of their best moves was something general manager Joe Douglas didn’t do.

He rebuffed teams that called and tried to acquire defensive tackle Quinnen Williams at the trade deadline.

There were reports that the Jets were looking to move Williams as part of their fire sale and collect even more draft capital for their seemingly never-ending rebuild. Douglas had no interest in dealing Williams and disputed the whole "shopping him" narrative.

Douglas said Williams is someone the Jets want to build around on defense, and the second-year player is showing why.

You can count on one hand the bright spots for this 0-11 team: rookies Mekhi Becton, Denzel Mims and Braden Mann are among them. Williams is right there, as well. He’s made a big jump from Year 1 to Year 2 and seems to be developing into one of the better DTs in the NFL.

"I’m definitely seeing improvement throughout the season," coach Adam Gase said. "Beginning of the year maybe there was a little bit where he wasn’t as consistent. But man, this middle part of the season I feel like he’s really shown up a lot, whether it be TFLs (tackles for loss) or creating pressure on the quarterback.

"He’s playing his (butt) off right now."

Williams was compared to Aaron Donald when the Jets used the No. 3 pick in the 2019 draft on the Alabama product. But Williams didn’t have much of an impact as a rookie. As this season has progressed, so has Williams into the Jets’ best defensive player.

In the process, Williams has put himself in some good company statistically among interior linemen.

Williams’ five sacks are tied for fifth at his position and his two forced fumbles are tied for second. Williams also has 11 run stuffs, second among defensive tackles. And Williams missed one game with a hamstring injury.

In Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins, Williams had 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble, seven tackles and two passes defensed. It was the second game this season that Williams had more than one sack, the same as Donald, who leads the NFL with 10.

"I don’t want to say this was the most impressive game that I’ve seen him play," Gase said. "I think he’s had a good amount of them this year."

It hasn’t impacted winning yet. But one of the many objectives for Douglas in what’s sure to be a busy offseason is to make sure he revamps the defense and finds good complementary pieces to put around Williams.

The Jets have no presence on the edge and their secondary is young and unproven. They’re relying on Williams to apply the pressure up front. No other Jet has more than two sacks.

"Quinnen is a great player, an outstanding player," Jets defensive lineman Folorunso Fatukasi said. "We both understand we have a lot of football to learn and we’re both excited how much we get to learn. That’s the entire defense. We’re excited about continuing to grow."

Williams’ growth is evident, after slimming down this offseason. He’s been quicker and more explosive off the ball. He’s already doubled his sack total from his rookie season in three fewer games.

"I just make sure I go out there and execute and play the hardest I can play," Williams.

One thing Williams has gotten better at is avoiding personal fouls.

He had three roughing the passer penalties in the Jets’ first seven games. Williams also had a costly face-mask penalty on a sack in the fourth quarter in Week 4 against Denver in a game the Jets were winning at the time. Williams hasn’t committed a penalty in his last three games.

"It’s not really a technique thing or anything you can practice," Williams said. "I just try to get my strike zone right."

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