Quinnen Williams admittedly hasn’t been a dominant force in the middle of the Jets’ defensive line during their first two games of the season after he missed much of training camp following foot surgery.
The Jets actually are ranked ninth in the NFL in defensive yardage allowed entering Sunday’s game in Denver against the unbeaten Broncos, but Williams — their stud defensive tackle — totaled just five tackles (two solo) and recorded zero sacks in their losses to the Panthers and the Patriots.
“You can only get football instincts by playing football. By me not playing football, I was catching up with instincts in-game,” Williams said after practice Thursday in Florham Park. “Definitely the first game [against Carolina], I felt like I had to knock off a lot of rust when it came down to just intuition, instincts and just quick-twitch type stuff that when I see [something], I can react to it.
“But I feel good now, I feel great on the field now, and when it comes down to preparing and going into this next game.”
The third-year defensive tackle missed OTAs and was sidelined until late in training camp following surgery in May to repair a broken foot.
Williams, the No. 3-overall pick in the 2019 draft, acknowledged losing about 10 pounds in an attempt to speed up his return. But he didn’t rejoin the Jets in practice until the latter part of August and didn’t appear in any preseason games.
“Honestly, I knew I wasn’t going to be in camp, wasn’t going to be in OTAs, so I knew I had basically a challenge ahead of me, that I was going to be behind when it came down to game-shape, things like that,” Williams said. “Even when the guys were at practice, I just did a lot of extra stuff on the side, so when the games started I would be able to perform well and knock off the small rust stuff, so conditioning and being overweight wouldn’t be a problem.”
Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich believes the 23-year-old Williams has shown “consistent progress” since the season opener. It sounds like the coaching staff is expecting a marked improvement from the team’s 2020 sack leader (seven) Sunday in Denver.
“It is brutal for anybody to miss as much time as he did and then just get thrown into the action. Was there some rust? Yeah, and he would admit to that. But you see all the special stuff, it’s there,” Ulbrich said. “The more he plays, the more you start to see it. He will consistently get better.
“He’s starting to feel like himself a little bit more. I’m starting to see his energy, and his confidence, and his swagger, that little gleam in his eye that he has. I’m excited about him going forward. He’s going to be exactly the player we think he is.”
One aspect of the new season that has excited Williams has been the Jets’ addition of his older brother, linebacker Quincy Williams, who registered five tackles against New England in his team debut after being claimed off waivers from Jacksonville.
“It’s super fun, man, to get to play with my brother,” Quinnen Williams said. “Grew up with him, I know everything he can do, he knows everything I can do. The expectations since we were little kids, same expectations now. So we hold each other accountable just like everybody else on the team.”
Quincy Williams is currently staying with Quinnen, who said their status as NFL teammates probably is a bigger deal to the rest of the family than it is to the siblings.
“Everybody feels like my brother on the football field. Off the field, of course, when we see each other at home, it’s different,” Quinnen Williams said. “I think me and him, we downplay it, because we are so focused on winning and doing our jobs and so focused on making plays on the field that honestly we don’t look at it or have time to say ‘Bro, we’re on the same team.’
“We’re on the same losing team, you know what I’m saying? We’re on the same team getting our ass whooped, so we don’t really look at it like that. We look at it like, ‘we got stuff to do, bro.’ We [have] plays to be made. We got to go out and dominate our box every single down.”