Sunday's game in Miami was more than a homecoming against a division rival for Jets DL Leonard Williams — it was a chance to battle in the trenches against a childhood idol.
"It's funny actually because I grew up watching the Gators and I was a big fan of the Pouncey brothers so it was cool to play against him," Williams said about battling Dolphins C Mike Pouncey. "He's a really competitive guy and I'm a really competitive guy so we were going at it a little bit, but at the end we were saying it's all love. He's a great guy to go against."
The second-year player said the 6'5", 299-pound Pouncey reminds him of a defensive lineman because of his mobility. Williams and Pouncey jostled for the majority of the Jets' 27-23 loss to the Dolphins, but the "Big Cat" also lined up against the other two-thirds that make up the interior of Miami's O-line.
"I was up on Pouncey a lot and [Laremy] Tunsil on the left side and the right guard [Jermon Bushrod] mostly," Williams said. "I was mostly on the inside guys and they're pretty athletic. You can tell by their scheme, their O-line runs side to side."
Williams finished the day with four total tackles, two QB hits and 2.0 tackles for loss. While it may not be the sexiest stat line, the USC product has been debatably the most effective player on the Jets defense this season.
In just four weeks, he eclipsed his 2015 sack total and now has 6.0 on the season, the most among interior linemen in the NFL. Outside of leading the Jets in sacks TFL (10.0), QBH (13) and FF (2), the 6'5", 302-pounder is tied for second in the NFL in TFL and tied for fifth in QBH. Oh yeah, he leads the Green & White with 50 tackles.
"It's been something we've been talking about since the last game of last season. It's something I wanted to work on," Williams said. "Getting to the quarterback a lot more, building up those numbers, TFLs, sacks and stuff like that. I think the biggest thing going into this year, going into OTAs, is I feel a lot more comfortable out there. I have a year under my belt now and I know what's going and I see things a lot slower."
This is the first year since Williams was a member of the Mainland High School Buccaneers that he's been a part of the same defensive system for two consecutive years. But perhaps the most impressive part is that he's putting up these numbers from the inside.
"The difference between the inside rush and the outside rush is that the outside rusher is going to take five or six steps before he meets his guy," he said. "And with an interior guy, as soon as the ball is snapped you're already face to face with your man so you have to have something, you need quick reaction skills. As soon as they do something, you have to react to it and a lot of times you get double-teamed because the center is a helper. If he sees his guard getting beat, he's going to help him out and most of the times on the outside you're going to have a one-on-one with the tackle."