Dominant, Pro Bowler, a potential Defensive Player of the Year candidate, all of these have been used to describe Quinnen Williams this season.
Jets teammates noticed a change with Williams beginning in training camp.
“A week into camp, you just knew it looked different,” Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins said. “Probably about three weeks into camp, I pulled him aside and I was like, ‘just do this all year, just do that. Don’t do nothing else, just do this and he’s been doing it so far.
“He’s playing up to the level that not only everybody else expected him to play, but what he’s expected himself to do every time he’s on the field.”
Williams has been the best player on the Jets roster during their surprising 4-2 start. Through six games, Williams has 22 tackles, five sacks and four tackles for loss.
In the Jets 27-10 victory over the Packers last Sunday, Williams arguably had his best performance since he was drafted No. 3 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. He recorded two sacks, three tackles, a forced fumble, two quarterback hits, a tackle for loss, and a blocked field goal on special teams. Williams was selected as the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts.
A week before that, Williams had another standout performance against the Dolphins. He had a 0.5 sack as the 24-year-old also had a memorable fumble recovery as he stiff-armed Dolphins receiver Tyreek Hill and almost scored on the play.
After posting seven and six sacks the last two seasons, Williams is on pace to post double digits for the first time in his career.
“Quinnen is playing at a different level,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said. “We’re only six games in, but he’s got to continue that.
“He’s got 11 more left. But he keeps doing this and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be Pro Bowl, All-Pro, all the different accolades you can get. He’s playing at that type of level.”
Williams got off to a slow start in 2021 after he had offseason foot surgery that held him back during training camp. But he played much better toward the end of last year, as he finished with six sacks and 53 tackles in 15 games.
During training camp in 2022, the defensive lineman was dominant from the start as he came into the summer in the best shape since turning pro.
But even after his excellent start to the season, Williams says there are more areas of his game he can improve on.
“I’m not where I want to be yet,” Williams said. “I know the defensive line hasn’t put the game we want to on film just yet.”
“We have a lot of learning to do, I have a lot of learning to do and I feel like Green Bay was just the scratch of the surface of what we can become and what we can do if we go back to the drawing board and fix our errors and small things and the small things that we have to do especially as a defensive line group so we can be dominated.
“We are definitely on the right path, but we haven’t gotten there just yet.”
When Williams entered the 2019 draft, some considered him to be the best defensive player available. Even better than Nick Bosa, who was selected one spot ahead of him by the 49ers.
Although there were flashes of his potential during his first three seasons in the league, Williams has seemed to put it all together as he is helping lead a Jets defense possibly into playoff contention.
The former No. 3 overall pick is also playing for his second contract as the Jets picked up his fifth-year rookie option that will cost the team around $11.5 million in 2023.
“It is hard to come into the League, especially as an interior d-lineman, to come into the league and have immediate success,” Saleh said. “He started to see some in his second year. Last year, like I said, he had the injury in the offseason and that sort of set him back some.
“He’s, knock on wood, in tremendous health. He’s in tremendous shape, and he’s playing at a great level. He’s only 23, 24. He’s still a pup, and he hasn’t even reached full maturity in terms of manhood.”
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