Florham Park, NJ – “Honestly every year feels different, you know it’s something Muhammad Wilkerson told me when I first came in as a rookie, he said ‘every year is going to be a different team’ and it’s true. Every year I’ve been here so far it’s been a different team and you just have to play with what you got, but at the same time I’m really excited about what we have this year.” – Leonard Williams
Every year is different, the rosters change, the coaching staff changes, old veterans go elsewhere, once promising young talents flame out, new hope is brought in with different players for fans to fall in love with. For Williams this year is different because he is now the man on the defensive line, Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson are in the NFC North leaving Williams as the big name holding down the anchor on the defensive line. This means more double-teams, something he started to face last year and something he is determined to learn how to beat this year.
“If I get a lot of double teams sometimes I’ll think about it like, ‘man, I’m getting a lot of double-teams that’s why I’m not getting there (to the quarterback), but now I’m taking it as even a bigger responsibility you know, beat two guys,” Williams said. “If I’m going to get that then I’m going to have to learn to beat it, I can’t just say ‘oh, I’m getting double-teamed so that’s preventing me.’ If I’m getting double-teamed, I have to figure out how I should beat that as well.”
Williams is now officially at that stage of his career, he’s proven he’s a really good defensive lineman in this league, but if he wants to prove that he’s a great defensive lineman he has to learn how to dominate double-teams as well. If he can’t, teams will continue to double him and erase any impact he would otherwise have. We know he’s too good for teams to stop him one-on-one, this year he has to prove that he’s good enough to beat the doubles. Along with this new task of learning how to beat doubles, Williams knows entering his fourth-year he’s going to step up more as a leader, though he’s thankful he doesn’t have to shoulder that load alone.
“I mean, I don’t necessarily feel like I have to. You know, there are definitely guys on the team that are older, like Steve McLendon and Josh McCown, you know a lot of older guys that people respect on the team, but I don’t necessarily think it’s a role that I have to step into,” Williams said. “I think it’s just a role that ends up coming with you, something that just naturally gets developed. I think I have a lot of respect from my teammates on how hard I work, so when I do finally say something they respect it.”
Of course the differences in this Jets team extend way beyond Leonard Williams. There’s a new offensive coordinator (Jeremy Bates), new offensive-line coach (Rick Dennison), new blocking schemes (along with a new center, Spencer Long, manning the middle of the line), a new middle linebacker (Avery Williamson) with a returning middle linebacker (Darron lee) being given new responsibilities. There’s a new big money cornerback (Truman Johnson), two second-year safeties ready to take the leap to play like veterans and two young, competent and talented quarterbacks joining the old, competent McCown.
For once the Jets have actual hope at quarterback, they have the highly-touted rookie, Sam Darnold, who will one day be handed the reins, but they also have Teddy Bridgewater eager to prove his injury is behind him and he’s ready to lead an NFL offense once again. McCown will open up training camp tomorrow as the starter, but by the end of came either Bridgewater or Darnold will win the job (the smart money is on Darnold) and we will get our first taste of what the new Jets quarterback can do and exactly how much hope can be placed on his shoulders.
This season is big for the Jets, but not so much about what their record will be but what their future will look like. With such a young roster and still so full of holes this season isn’t all about wins and losses, can Quincy Enunwa stay healthy and return to 2016 form? Can Robby Anderson stay out of trouble and continue to build off of last season? Can Marcus Maye and Jamal Adams take the next step in their games or will they face a sophomore slump? Can Leonard Williams learn to beat double-teams? Can Sam Darnold be the franchise quarterback most Jets fans have spent their entire life hoping for? There are no answers to these questions yet, but this season will provide them for us which has to be exciting for everyone.
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