Gregg Williams is a 60-year-old defensive coordinator who flaunts a big résumé, a big ego and big expectations.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Sometimes a little madness is a good thing, especially on a football field. The New York Jets tried it the other way for four years — the calm, gentlemanly approach — and it didn’t work.
“Adam Gase is a crazy offensive coordinator and Gregg [Williams] is obviously a crazy D-coordinator,” defensive end Leonard Williams said Wednesday. “How those two go at it at practice kind of trickles down to the players, and the players go at it, too. It’s in a healthy way. It’s competition, getting better.”
These are the new Jets — louder, brasher and more energetic than the old Jets.
Let’s not be naive: Some of it is because they have a new coaching staff. When there’s a new boss, the intensity always goes up. When that new staff is led by two alpha personalities, the intensity goes way up.
“There’s some juice in the air,” said Gase, the head coach. And, no, he wasn’t referring to the electrical storms that hit northern New Jersey on Tuesday and Wednesday.
— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) May 29, 2019
The Jets have one of the most fascinating coaching staffs in the NFL, led by Gase, Williams and outside linebackers coach Joe Vitt, Williams’ former BountyGate foe from New Orleans (and Gase’s father-in-law). This is one heck of a chemistry experiment and it will play out in a heated beaker this summer on the training camp practice field.
Even now, in noncontact practices, it’s easy to see Williams already has infused his personality into the defense. He coaches hard, as if every play is Armageddon. He never stops barking, cursing, instructing, cajoling.
“I feel like that’s the mentality running through the whole team,” Leonard Williams said. “There’s a lot of fire in everybody right now.”
A lot of it stems from the new defensive scheme, which Leonard Williams described in three words from a defensive line perspective: “Attack, attack, attack.” Instead of reading and reacting, which the players say was a big part of the Todd Bowles system, the linemen are told to get upfield as quickly as possible. Worried about filling a gap? Don’t sweat it. There’s a linebacker who can do that.
The transition has meant nuanced changes for the defensive linemen — a new stance, different footwork and different hand-placement techniques.
“It’s a lot different from what we were doing last year,” defensive end Henry Anderson said. “It’s a lot more aggressive, attacking front. As a defensive lineman, some of the guys who were here last year have to get rid of some of the habits we developed in that old scheme.”
The Jets are saying they will run a 3-4 base defense, but they won’t be predictable. Gregg Williams once bragged he has more than 40 different fronts in his playbook, so the Jets might take a snowflake approach — no two are the same.
Gregg Williams ran a 4-3 scheme last season with the Cleveland Browns, but he used that front only 31 percent of the time, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. He spent most of the time in two variations of a nickel package — a 3-3-5 alignment (45 percent) and a 4-2-5 (19 percent).
Make no mistake, X’s and O’s are important, but a winning defense also comes from attitude. There were times, especially last season, when the Jets were passive — especially when trying to protect a lead in the fourth quarter. This is hard to believe (or maybe not), but they registered only four sacks in the fourth quarter. It’s no wonder they blew so many games.
Gregg Williams will change that. He already has their attention.
“Sometimes we’re in [the classroom], a little half-asleep, and he comes in there yelling,” Anderson said. “You saw him on the practice field. He’s definitely a loud, vocal guy.”
“Crazy in a good way,” Leonard Williams said, smiling.