FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Quinnen Williams was disappointed with how his rookie season played out.
The No. 3 overall pick in last year’s draft came to the New York Jets with a big smile, lots of hype and plenty of expectations. The defensive tackle made some plays, but not nearly as many as he wanted.
His confidence wavered, and his braces-filled grin and fun-loving personality appeared to gradually fade.
“I didn’t have a horrible season,” Williams acknowledged Wednesday during a video call. “I set myself to a higher standard and my coaches set me to a higher standard because they know I can do it.”
Williams is right: He didn’t have a terrible first year in the NFL. He showed flashes at times of why he was so highly regarded coming out of Alabama. The 22-year-old also had the struggles typical of a young player trying to feel his way through his rookie season.
Williams finished with 2 1/2 sacks, 31 tackles, nine quarterback hits and a fumble recovery. A high ankle sprain also hampered him at times, but Williams refuses to use that as an excuse.
“I don’t want to blame anything on the injury because I was playing,” he said. “It just was all on me. It was all on mistakes I made. It was all on the things I did wrong. So, nothing really held me back but myself.”
He spent the first few weeks after the Jets’ final game poring over film of his play. Then he committed to getting into better shape and figuring out how to be an impact player in his second season.
The braces are off, but the smile’s back — and so is Williams’ confidence.
“This year, I’m feeling it, man,” he said. “I got my body right this offseason. I got my confidence back this offseason. I got a trainer who I’ve been training my butt off with. … I just feel it, man. I’m in great shape, great condition, man. I got my body fat down. I’m rockin’ and rollin’. 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.”
He recently approached defensive line coach Andre Carter, who played 13 years in the league, and told him he had an epiphany of sorts.
“Hey, Coach, I learned something today,” Williams declared.
“What’s that?” Carter asked.
“Just go!” Williams said.
That might be the biggest lesson Williams learned last season, that he was thinking — and overthinking — things while on the field rather than letting his instincts guide him. Carter said he had been urging Williams to simplify his approach, and is happy it appears to have clicked with the young D-lineman.
“When you think too much, you’re going to naturally take false steps,” Carter said. “When you overanalyze, you’re going to naturally be slow to react. … He had shown flashes of good plays, but now it’s continuing to be consistent.”
Williams played at about 303 pounds last season, but changed his diet to include more seafood and proteins and lowered his body fat percentage. He trained with boxing coach Don Somerville and reported to camp at 297.
“I transformed my whole body, man,” Williams said.
His coaches and teammates have noticed.
“The biggest thing I just keep looking for with him is how disruptive can you be?” coach Adam Gase said. “Within the system, doing your job, but at the same time making the offensive linemen think about you pre-snap, like, ‘Hey, this guy could come off the ball and penetrate and that’s going to ruin this run to this side or backside.’”
That’s the type of presence Williams intends to be. Carter, who had 80 1/2 sacks and made a Pro Bowl during his playing career, said it took him three years before everything clicked at this level.
Williams doesn’t want to wait that long.
He wants to be dominant starting this season.
Every game. Every snap.
“I feel like I’ve tapped into that zone,” Williams said, “tapped into that level that I’m going to be unstoppable.”
NOTES: Williams’ offseason was marred when he was arrested at New York’s LaGuardia Airport in March after trying to board a plane while carrying a gun. Williams’ court date has been rescheduled several times, and he couldn’t discuss the case because it’s a pending legal matter. “You don’t ever want to have negative energy, negative statements or things come to the organization because of yourself,” Williams said. … The Jets officially signed WR Chris Hogan and waived RB Kenneth Dixon to make room on the roster. … Backup OL Conor McDermott injured a knee during practice and was set to have an MRI on Wednesday. … CB Brian Poole (dehydration), WR Denzel Mims (hamstring), CB Pierre Desir (hamstring), DL Jabari Zuniga (quadriceps), LB James Burgess (lower back), DL Bronson Kaufusi (hamstring) and OL Cameron Clark (shoulder) all remained sidelined.
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