The Jets have been firing on all cylinders recently during a three-game winning streak, but one member of Gang Green has been at the center of their newfound rejuvenation: Quinnen Williams.
The 24-year-old defensive lineman has become a force to be reckoned with on the field this year, and has been a menace to opposing offenses — racking up 22 tackles (including four for losses) and five sacks though just six games this year.
Coming to the Jets as the third overall pick in 2019 out of Alabama, Williams has steadily improved each year of his professional career, but has made a clear leap into the upper echelons of the NFL’s defensive rankings.
Last game, when the defense shut down Aaron Rodgers and held the Green Packers to just 10 points, he had five tackles (including two for a loss of yardage), while sacking Rodgers twice and hitting him two other times. He also forced a fumble and blocked a field goal in that game.
He subsequently was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week.
Now, his teammates and coaches are taking notice of the Gang Green defender’s importance to the team.
“That dude works his tail off,” said fellow defensive lineman Vinny Curry. “He was having a Pro Bowl season. But I think after [Sunday’s] game, I guess we all can agree he’s having an All-Pro season.”
At 6’3” and 303 pounds, Williams said he knew he was primed for something this season.
“I did feel very good coming into this training camp,” he said. “I felt confident in my conditioning, felt confident in my training and felt comfortable in the scheme.”
There were times during Williams’ first three seasons when he would flash his power and speed in games, and then somewhat fade or mix into the defensive line shuffle.
This season, Williams has been a force — a presence for whom offensive coordinators have to scheme.
“Between the whistles, he’s still smiling and the same old Quinnen,” said defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins. “That’s just who he is. But when the ball’s snapped, it’s pure dominance.”
Talk to most people about Williams the past several weeks and they’ll all inevitably use the word “dominant.” He has spoken in the past about trying to reach that level, but refuses to acknowledge he’s there right now.
No matter how many people say he absolutely is.
“I haven’t nearly reached the potential I feel I can reach,” he said.
“I definitely haven’t gotten to that word just yet, man,” Williams insisted. “Just because of all the learning I have to do, all the different things I want to do and want to accomplish and want to become.
“But I definitely feel like I’m on the right path to becoming dominant, but not there just yet.”
It’s just tough to convince everyone else of that.
Head coach Robert Saleh heaped his praise on Williams, saying he should easily earn his spot in this year’s Pro Bowl.
“Quinnen is playing at a different level,” 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, 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.”
But rather than relish the praise he’s been getting of late, Williams is focused on continuing to improve, he said.
“I think it’s more like self-constructive criticism, like, self reflecting and different stuff like that,” Williams said. “I look at myself every single day and I know the player that I want to become.”
And that’s a scary thought for opponents.
“Listen, I honestly think there’s potential there for him to be Defensive Player of the Year,” Curry said. “If he just keeps doing what he’s doing, keeps attacking the practices and playing at that high level, man, sky’s the limit for him.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.