New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh came from leading a San Francisco 49ers defense with an uber-athletic, playmaking linebacker in Fred Warner. The Jets defense has C.J. Mosley as their defensive leader and quarterback, but he lacks the quick-twitch, explosive movements to fill the Warner role for Saleh.
Prior to the season opener, the Jets picked up a former third-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars from the 2019 NFL Draft, Quincy Williams. He is the older brother of star defensive lineman Quinnen Williams, who was selected third overall in the same class.
Quincy had a rough start to his young career, suffering hand and core injuries that limited him to 18 total games through two seasons with the Jaguars. Athletically, his explosiveness and speed come from his track background. He competed in the long jump, the 100-meter dash, and the 4×100 relay. He was also the winner of the Alabama Class 5A state high jump title with a high of 6’2”. During pre-draft workouts, he ran a 4.56 40-yard dash. This would have landed him inside the top 10 at the NFL Scouting Combine.
A change of scenery and a cleaner bill of health has allowed Williams to flourish this season in New York. At 5-foot-11 and 255 pounds, Williams plays with extreme physicality as a tackler. He plays like his hair is on fire. He showcases his easy acceleration and burst once he locates the football. Despite being undersized, he is able to slip and shed blocks in space before delivering a hellish blow to the ball-carrier.
From the looks of it, Williams and Mosley complement each other well on the second level. Williams aligns as the WILL (weakside) backer for Saleh’s defense. This presents the opportunities to run sideline to sideline and make plays in space.
His fearless style of play matches his never-back-down mentality. There are not many linebackers that will violently shoot the gap to attack Derrick Henry in the lane. Williams is currently second on the team in tackles behind Mosley with 74. Also, he adds eight tackles for loss, two sacks, three passes deflected, and three fumbles forced. His impact is evident in his first season as a Jet.
Williams’ acceleration is unreal on tape. He can be seen reading a screen flat-footed before exploding past the pulling OL and drilling the running back. As a blitzer, he has the tremendous closing speed to finish the job and bring down the quarterback. He has the athletic tools to excel as a spot dropper in coverage and play the passing lanes. Improving his diagnosing and processing abilities will come with time and repetition.
It is possible Saleh has found his dynamic playmaking linebacker off waivers. Bargain shopping can produce incredible value when done correctly. Williams is flashing immense potential for the Jets. Time will tell if it will become a trend.