Quinnen Williams is a fun-loving rookie who smiles often and shows the world he still wears braces.
He yelled “Goat!” at new Jets center Ryan Kalil because he has him on his Madden Ultimate team and knows all about Kalil’s history from that.
There is an innocence and exuberance about the 21-year-old defensive lineman from Alabama. Williams may look and act like a big kid, but the Jets see a force in the making. They look forward to his growth and development, and expect him to help this season.
“I call him 'Big Baby,' ” safety Jamal Adams said. “He’s a guy that’s young right now, he’s feeling out everything. But he has a mindset of a killer. I’m excited to play with him. I know what he’s going to bring to the table.”
Williams will get his first opportunity to show that Thursday night when the Jets open their preseason against the Giants.
Adam Gase wouldn’t divulge how much Sam Darnold will play or whether Le’Veon Bell will play at all. Reportedly, Bell won't. But signs point to Williams getting some first-team reps, with Leonard Williams slowed by a hip injury.
“I’m very excited,” Quinnen Williams said about playing his first NFL game. “But I take it day by day. Every day I try to get better. Every day I try to get a step closer to the person I want to be in the NFL, the things I want to achieve. I just want to dominate every day.”
The Jets took Williams with the No. 3 pick in the draft. They selected Darnold third in 2018. Going into last preseason, it was clear that Darnold would be the starting quarterback very soon, and he was named the starter before Week 1. Williams is in a similar situation.
He’s picked up the defense pretty quickly and has shown an ability to get into the backfield in training camp. The plan eventually is for both Leonard Williams and Quinnen Williams to be on the front line together. It seems more like a question of when than if.
“He’s hungry,” Adams said. “He’s a hungry guy. I know he’s going to come out here and make plays.”
The 6-3, 303-pound Williams definitely has improved since the start of training camp. He started off playing mostly with the second team following a contract dispute that ended on the first day of camp. He quickly made his presence felt and has been getting more first-team reps as coordinator Gregg Williams continues to throw multiple looks and different personnel groupings at the offense. In Tuesday’s practice, Williams showed his quickness and explosiveness when he got past Jonotthan Harrison and avoided Brian Winters to get to Darnold for a would-be sack.
“That's a good sign for us,” Gase said. “Anytime our younger guys can go with the ones and guys that haven't had as much experience in that area can play well and they can make it difficult for our one offense, it's a good sign for us as a team.”
Leonard Williams and Henry Anderson appear to be safe bets to start on the defensive line when the regular season begins Sept. 8 against the Bills. For Quinnen Williams to be the third lineman in the Jets’ 3-4 front, he’ll have to supplant Steve McLendon.
McLendon has taken Williams under his wing. McLendon has been a great teammate, understanding that he is grooming Williams to take his spot. He’s always there for Williams, giving him advice about what to eat, how to keep his body right, and even how to recover from a jammed finger.
“I’m always asking him what to do,” Williams said. “He pushes me every day, makes sure I’m not complacent. Like he said, ‘You had a good practice the other day,’ but he makes sure, ‘Quinnen, you got to fix this. Quinnen, you got to get on this. Quinnen, you have to work on this.’ I love it. I love it when people coach me up, especially my peers.
“I trust these guys and they trust me to be the best player on the field. And when we go to battle, I know they’re going to want me to do what I’m supposed to do, and not worry about if I know this or if I know that.”