Quinnen Williams promised to “dominate” the NFL, even before he was drafted by the Jets with the third overall pick in 2019. His confidence was unshakable, and he sure seemed to have the skills to back it up.
It didn’t happen, of course. In fact, not only didn’t Williams dominate as a rookie, he wasn’t even much of a disruptive force. By almost any measure, his first NFL season was a big disappointment.
But that hasn’t shaken his confidence at all.
“This year, I’m feeling it man,” Williams said at a Zoom press conference on Wednesday. “I got my body right this offseason, I got my confidence back this offseason, I’ve got a trainer who’s been training my butt off. Man, I just feel it. I’m in great shape, I got my body fat down. I’m rocking and rolling.
“I feel myself being that person that they drafted me to be. I feel like I’m coming into that person to be a dominant defensive tackle in the NFL.”
Feel free to roll your eyes at that, but the 22-year-old Williams sounded serious (again). He said he “trained my butt off this offseason to be quicker, faster, stronger,” dropping from 303 to 297 and lowering his body fat. He broke down film to go over all the mistakes he made as a rookie so he could figure out how to fix them.
And he’s healthy now, which is not insignificant. Williams hurt his ankle in the season opener last year – an injury defensive coordinator Gregg Williams recently described as a “severe high-ankle sprain." The Jets never let on how bad it was last season, but it was clear that Williams wasn’t the explosive player they thought they had drafted, and the injury seemed to be a big reason why.
“I don’t want to blame anything on the injury because I got out there, I was playing,” Williams said. “If I had an injury, I should’ve stayed down. It was all on me. It was all on the things I did wrong. So that didn’t really hold me back.”
Maybe not, but even Williams could see something wasn’t right last year – whether it was the injury or just his ability to adjust to the speed of the NFL.
“When I was evaluating myself, I was like ‘Q could’ve did this. Q could’ve did this,’” Williams said. “I was just kicking myself.”
The result was a season with just 28 tackles, four tackles for loss, six quarterback hits and 2 ½ sacks – hardly a line that would indicate he’d someday be one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. He showed flashes of his ability at times, but there wasn’t a single game where he impacted the outcome or even showed that he could.
But the Jets thought they had drafted a game-changer in Williams. They believed he could be an interior pass rusher in the mold of Aaron Donald. And really, they still do. Or at least they hope so.
“The biggest thing I just keep looking for with him is: How disruptive can you be?” said Jets head coach Adam Gase. “Within the system, doing your job, but at the same time making the offensive linemen think about you pre-snap, “Hey, this guy could come off the ball and penetrate and that’s going to ruin this run to this side or backside.’
“I think once again, it’s the second year in the system, you’ve already been through a training camp, he knows what to expect. Everything is going to just keep getting quicker for him. And I think really now it’s taking that athletic ability and his strength and applying it all.”
Williams believes he can. And sure, he believed that a year ago, too, but this time he really means it. He said, “My confidence is through the roof” and he understands that everyone is counting on him. Even though Gase said, “Expectations of being the third pick of the draft is irrelevant,” Williams knows that’s not entirely true. People have expectations of how good he’s supposed to be. He has those expectations, too.
“Of course people who get drafted as high as I got drafted are wanted to do more,” he said. “I didn’t have a horrible season. I just didn’t accomplish my goals. I set myself to a higher standard and my coaching staff set me to a higher standard because they know I can do it.”
And he is sure he can do it, too. In fact, Williams said that defensive line coach Andre Carter, who played 13 NFL seasons, told him that everything started to click for him in his third NFL season. But for Williams, that just wasn’t fast enough.
“I’m like, ‘I can’t wait to my third year. I got to hit it now,’” Williams said. “I feel like I’ve tapped into that zone, I’ve tapped into that level that I’m going to be unstoppable.
“I’m going to get everything right this year.”