New York Jets defensive lineman Quinnen Williams has a little extra motivation to play well against San Francisco on Sunday.
Week 1’s no-show in Buffalo and the return to MetLife Stadium should be enough motivation for every member of the New York Jets going into this Sunday’s tilt against the San Francisco 49ers (1 p.m. ET, Fox). But defensive lineman Quinnen Williams has an extra personal layer of incentive, one to show just exactly what San Francisco’s missing.
Two of the top three picks from the 2019 NFL Draft will square off on Sunday. Williams went third to the Jets during the selection proceedings in Nashville, minutes after Nick Bosa was chosen by the 49ers. The instant gratification nature of the draft, accompanied by its obsession with the question of what might’ve been, ensured that Williams and Bosa would be forever connected for the rest of their careers, even if matchups between the Jets and Niners only come as often as the Summer Olympics.
San Francisco general manager John Lynch strongly hinted that the decision at No. 2 came down to one of the defensive linemen. The final decision of Bosa didn’t stop Lynch from singing Williams’ praises prior to the fateful day.
“The season he had may have been as good of a college football season that I’ve ever seen,” Lynch said, per Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area after Williams tallied 19.5 tackles for a loss and eight sacks in his redshirt sophomore season at Alabama. “He was just dominant. What a season he had. He’s a spectacular player.”
By now, it’s clear that Bosa more than justified Lynch’s decision. He earned 13 sacks, including four in San Francisco’s run to Super Bowl LIV, en route to the Associated Press Rookie of the Year honors. Williams struggled in his debut season with the Jets (0-1), a year plagued with injuries and inconsistency. His final ledger consisted of 28 tackles, including 2.5 sacks.
2020 got off to a somewhat better start. He was arrested in March after attempting to bring a firearm on an airplane, but he made positive headlines in organizing charitable endeavors in both the metropolitan area and in his native Birmingham in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Williams knows that, on the field, his Jets career hasn’t exactly gone as envisioned yet. While he was one of the few Jets to earn praise from the 27-17 disaster in Buffalo…defensive coordinator Gregg Williams offered praise of collapsing Josh Allen’s pocket…the defender knows he’s capable of much more.
“I got to do much more. I have to go out there and give it my all, every single play, every single down,” Quinnen Williams said this week, per Zach Braziller of the New York Post. “That’s what I expect from myself. My standards are super high for myself, so I feel like I haven’t (done) what I can do and I should be doing.”
Williams can certainly make a statement on Sunday, as the Jets seek their first win of the season against the defending NFC champions. A New York defense missing several key components through trades (Jamal Adams), opt-outs (C.J. Mosley), or injuries (Blake Cashman, possibly Avery Williamson) will need someone to step up to stop a San Franciso offense that ranked second in NFL offense last season.
The connection between Williams and San Francisco (0-1) wasn’t much of a talking point in Florham Park this week, but some Niners appear to be aware of the bond he and Bosa indirectly share.
“Obviously, hindsight is 20-20 but Nick at number two is a no-brainer. And Quinnen was a no brainer,” blocker Trent Williams said in a report from Chris Biderman of The Sacramento Bee. “At that point, it was just kind of what you prefer as a team, as a coaching staff and as an organization. Obviously, I don’t think you could have gone wrong with either player. I do feel Nick has turned into one of the best at his position. Quinnen has that same ability. So we expect him to be disruptive on Sunday and we expect to try to contain him. Both of those guys are saturated with talent and I don’t think you could have went wrong either way.”
Bosa himself commented on the connection in the same report.
“I’m just really happy that I ended up (in San Francisco) and I’m glad they felt confident enough to pick me,” Bosa said. “I’m sure (Williams) is going to get the hang of it here pretty soon, because he’s super talented. He’s got everything he needs. I mean, (we’re) two good players, and I’m happy I got picked one above him.”
There’s still time for pick no. 3 to fulfill that potential and make the Jets equally satisfied. Williams’ next big opportunity comes against the team that passed on him, one that went with Bosa to anchor their defensive line.
While his stats and play may not meet anyone standards, not even his own, the most famous examples of a Jets-Crimson Tide crossover is a believer in his fellow former Tuscaloosa dweller.
“Quinnen is a great athlete, a terrific athlete,” Namath told Kristian Dyer of Sports Illustrated. “He’s going to be around. I like his personality, he’s a nice man but he’s still a hell of a defensive lineman – you don’t have to be one of those guys who is raging in the locker room.”
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags