Now that the hiring of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is official, there may not be any one person hoping to see him work his magic than Jets GM Mike Maccagnan for three very big reasons as three of his biggest acquisitions have flashed the ability to be impact players, but haven’t quite put it together consistently in Green and White. Leonard Williams, Darron Lee and Trumaine Johnson.
In Williams and Lee, the Jets have a pair of former first round picks who have been heading in opposite directions of late.
After making the pro bowl as an alternate in his second pro season when he finished with seven sacks, Williams has been a good player, but nowhere near good enough to justify his status as the sixth overall pick that he was in the 2015 draft. Should the Jets move to a 4-3 base defense under Williams and allow the “Big Cat” to slide inside, he may be a more disruptive player and get to a level where he’s making a few more trips to the Pro Bowl, hopefully as something more than an alternate.
All of this of course should be dependent on whether or not Gregg Williams feels he can get Leonard Williams to play up to his $14 million price tag. If he doesn’t feel that’s the case, perhaps the Jets explore a trade.
While Williams has levelled off after a strong start, Darron Lee struggled mightily in years one and two but made a huge leap in year three, performing as one of the NFL’s top linebackers in coverage, picking off three passes in twelve games. Unfortunately for Lee, his stellar season came to an early end for violating the league’s substance abuse program, making his future with the team a bit murky.
Having spent his first three seasons playing inside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, Gregg Williams may opt to kick Lee outside to the edge where he can use his speed and overall athleticism to beat opposing tackles and get to the quarterback on a more frequent basis. Getting Lee to face more running backs and tight ends in the blocking game is clearly more desirable than having him go head up with 320 lb guards in the middle of the defense.
As we recently discussed on JetNation radio (right here) with Dennis Waszak of the Associated Press, Lee and Williams are two big names that could thrive under Williams with one of his prized free agent additions falling in to that same category.
After signing cornerback Trumaine Johnson to a multi-year deal this past offseason, the move looked like a flop more often than not. Playing in Todd Bowles’ defense, Johnson was beaten far more often than one would expect if they’d watched him play with the St. Louis and Los Angeles Rams over the past few seasons.
From 2014-2016 Williams had some of his best seasons, grabbing eleven interceptions and getting himself franchise tagged by the Rams who were unwilling to part with their top corner. During that time, his defensive coordinator was none other than Gregg Williams while Dennard Wilson was his secondary coach, the same combination he’ll have with the Jets in 2019.
Clearly the Jets are hoping the hiring of Williams will benefit the defense as a whole, but getting three highly talented players at three different levels to play to their full potential would go a long way in doing just that.