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Rookie Leonard Williams picks No. 92 to salute Shaun Ellis

New York Jets DL Leonard Williams, the team's

New York Jets DL Leonard Williams, the team's first-round selection (sixth overall) in the 2015 NFL Draft, speaks to the media during Day 1 of rookie minicamp held at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park, N.J. on Friday, May 8, 2015. Credit: James Escher

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The preseason was over for the Jets, and it had come down to a numbers game for Leonard Williams.

The "Big Cat'' had a chance to trade in his No. 62 on Monday for something more fitting on a defensive end -- 92, 93 or 95.

He had heard of Shaun Ellis, a defensive end who wore 92 through the 2010 season after the Jets drafted him 12th overall in 2000. After the available numbers became known, several people told Williams about Ellis' similar nickname, "Big Katt.''

"I started looking up his highlights,'' Williams said after Thursday's practice. "So I definitely wanted to do it because of him. I think he's nasty, as he should be as a defensive lineman, and I feel like he just gets after it. So I hope I can honor him.''

The Jets need the new 92 to honor the old 92 with his play right away. When they kick off the season Sunday against the Browns at MetLife Stadium, the sixth overall pick in the 2015 draft will be starting at right end. Williams will replace Sheldon Richardson, suspended for four games after failing multiple marijuana tests and possibly longer after being charged with resisting arrest and various traffic violations in July.

"Leonard is everything we thought he would be coming out,'' defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers said. "He's a hard worker, a guy that's extremely talented.''

Williams immediately showed that he had a good mind inside that helmet, too. "He understood his assignments,'' coach Todd Bowles said. "He asked a lot of questions, and that's rare for a rookie coming in like that to ask those type of questions and then not mess them up when he got in there.''

The two-time USC All-American could see a lot of Cleveland's five-time All-Pro left tackle, Joe Thomas, and he said there "definitely'' will be some pains in the grow-as-a-pro process.

"It's something new, so I can't go in too prepared,'' Williams said. "I feel comfortable, obviously, but there are always going to be some bumps and bruises going throughout the season.''

There also are the literal bumps and bruises. Williams strained a muscle behind his right knee/upper calf Aug. 29 against the Giants.

"There's still a little bit of pain,'' he said. "It was really sore the day after our first practice Monday. That was my first practice back. But I'm feeling more comfortable on it now.''

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