A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:
1. Sweet home, Alabama: Defensive tackle Quinnen Williams eats meals prepared by a personal chef. He works out four days a week. Some of that time is spent with a defensive backs trainer. (More on that in a bit.) He’s so determined to better himself that he gave up fast food and Oreo cookies, big sacrifices for any 22-year-old.
“He wants to show people, ‘I was the third overall pick for a reason,'” Williams’ personal trainer, Kevin Brown, said in a phone interview. “That’s his fire this offseason. Truly, he’s all-in. I’m like, ‘We need a Pro Bowl this year.’ The mental space he’s in now is totally on another level. This year, you guys will see a big difference in Quinnen Williams.”
The Jets hope so because his rookie season was underwhelming, magnifying the importance of his first full offseason program, which failed to come to full fruition. Team facilities were shut down by the coronavirus pandemic, a potentially huge setback for a young player who is still learning how to prepare his body and mind for the rigors of a NFL season.
Instead of New Jersey, Williams has spent the offseason at home in Birmingham, Alabama, where he trains at Xtreme Fitness and Performance. It’s a familiar setting for Williams, who has been going to Brown since the 11th grade. He works out alongside his brother, Quincy Williams, a linebacker for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Brown, who supervises about a dozen players, said his initial goals for Quinnen were to get him healthy (he missed three games because of a high-ankle sprain) and improve his strength.
There’s also a quickness component built into the program. Brown doesn’t want old-school defensive linemen (see: plodding 300-pounders), so there’s an emphasis on movement skills. That’s why Williams (6-foot-3, 303 pounds), already known for his athleticism, does agility drills with the in-house DB trainer. It’s why he works out with VertiMax training equipment, which increases jumping ability and explosiveness.
Good nutrition also is a staple of the plan. Williams, who used a personal chef during the season, hired one for the offseason, too. When he’s on the go and can’t eat at home, he packs microwavable snacks for a healthier option than drive-through junk food.
“You’re not going to put regular gas in a Lamborghini,” Brown said. “It’s the same thing with your body. You have to make sure you have the right fuel.”
This is a huge season for Williams, the highest-drafted defensive player in Jets history. Considered a “can’t-miss” prospect, he had 2.5 sacks and recorded more than two solo tackles in one of 13 games. He wasn’t terrible, but he disappeared for stretches, acknowledging at the end of the season that he didn’t play up to his expectations.
Some perspective, people.
Williams was so hyped coming out of Alabama that people looked past his relative lack of experience. Basically, he was a full-time player for one season. He dominated college offensive linemen, but he quickly discovered in the NFL that it takes more than talent.
“If you look back at his career at Alabama, he didn’t play a lot,” Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “He still has a lot of raw talent in him. The more he learns and the more experience he gets on the field will make him that much better. … Guys like me and the coaches have to stay on him and make sure he’s in the right mindset. He’s definitely that guy in the middle of our defense that can wreck games.”
Williams’ offseason began with a wrong kind of headline — a March arrest for allegedly carrying an unlicensed pistol in a New York airport. (The charges are pending; the expectation is that his playing status won’t be affected in 2020.) Williams tried to spin the offseason into a positive by committing to his craft. Come training camp, we’ll see the results.
2. C.J. is OK: Even though Mosley said he’s “cleared to do everything” in training camp, the prudent course of action would be to ease him back slowly, especially after having no offseason practices because of the coronavirus restrictions. Mosley, who had surgery last December to repair a core-muscle injury, said he’s able to perform “football movements,” which had been a question in his mind as recently as a month ago. That’s great, but there’s no rush, especially with five other inside linebackers on the Jets’ roster.
3. Blue-collar rookie: On the night he was drafted, Jets wide receiver Denzel Mims was asked to identify the strength of his game. The first thing he mentioned was blocking.
Clearly, Mims isn’t your typical diva receiver. That notion was reinforced while listening to his former Baylor coach, Matt Rhule, on “The Last Stand Podcast” with Brian Custer. The current Carolina Panthers‘ coach, raised in New York City, believes Mims’ mindset will play well with the local fan base.
“I grew up in that area and I know one thing about Jets’ fans: They want toughness,” Rhule said. “They want someone who’s going to compete. They want grinders and workers, and that’s what Denzel is. … He’s not going to be some guy who’s all about the headlines. He’s a worker.
“I would get after him and he would get after me. He’s just a great, great person. The Jets got somebody that’s really, really talented. His best football is ahead of him. You know what? He’s going to grind and work and be a lunch-pail guy people can feel good about.”
It won’t happen overnight, but Mims — picked in the second round — has the potential to be a better all-around receiver than former Jet Robby Anderson, who played for Rhule at Temple and followed him to Carolina.
4. Where’s Jamal? The Jamal Adams contract dispute is sure to be a big storyline in training camp, assuming he doesn’t get a new deal (and I don’t think he will). When the sides get around to serious negotiating, there could be a difference of opinion on his true value. That’s because Adams is more than a safety, which undoubtedly will factor into his asking price.
In three seasons, Adams has lined up in the box on 37% of his defensive snaps, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
5. New post for Darnold? The Jets likely will have a new NFL Players’ Association team rep after the fall election. The current rep is wide receiver Quincy Enunwa (out for the season), with tackle Kelvin Beachum (free agent) and quarterback Sam Darnold as the alternates. Enunwa told me recently that, even though he hopes to remain around the team as much as possible, it might be difficult to carry out the responsibilities of the position.
If Darnold gets the top spot, he’d have to be one of the youngest team reps ever at 23. New guard Greg Van Roten, 30, was the Panthers’ top rep last season.
6. Jets South: Darnold is spending the weekend with about two dozen teammates at a training facility in the Miami area, a headline-generating summit/passing camp. It didn’t generate publicity, but he actually did the same thing last offseason in California.
7. The last word: “You really realize how much the game means to you when you’re away for so long. Just from rehabbing while the team was practicing, there was like two or three months where I didn’t see the sunlight. I’d get in at 6 in the morning, 6:30 in the morning, be in rehab all day, then work out, then meeting. By the time we’re out, it’s like 6 o’clock and there’s no sun. …. You definitely get a little isolated when you’re in the facility and in the training room, working out and trying to do everything to stay sane.” — Mosley, who played only two games in 2019.