In a business where players, coaches and systems can change quickly, stability and consistency are two concepts an athlete can appreciate. After completing his third NFL season with the Jets, DL Leonard Williams expressed his happiness about having both head coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan lead the way for the foreseeable future.
"I love consistency. I love playing for the same guys, being around the same environment," Williams said of the pair's extensions. "I know what he (Bowles) expects from me. I know where this team is going. He knows what pieces we need, what pieces we don't need. We're building. I definitely see that we're on the right path and we're working towards something."
That something has Williams committed to Bowles and the message he brings to the team. With progress taken in 2017, the 23-year-old Williams has no desire to take a different road.
"If we had a new coach come in, we would have to start from ground zero," the third-year defensive lineman stated. "The coach would have to figure out what he needs on his team, and what he doesn't need on his team when we're already on a path. I think it's smart to just stay on the path that we're already on."
For his first three pro seasons, Williams has played in the same defensive scheme under Bowles and defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers. The 6'5", 302-pound powerhouse finished the 2017 season with 37 tackles, two sacks, six tackles for loss, and one interception. And after coming off a Pro-Bowl season the year prior, Williams is confident his performance will only improve further in 2018 with help from his coaches.
"At USC I literally had a different defensive coordinator every year," the Big Cat said. "Whereas now I know the playbook. I know my coaches. I know my teammates. I could really just focus on my talent, I could focus on my technique and more off-the-field stuff."
One place that hasn't been immune to change has been the defensive line. When Williams was drafted in 2015, he found himself in the mix of what was, at the time, one of the top defensive lines in the NFL, featuring the talents of Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, and Damon Harrison. With roster changes made in the following years, Williams has found himself in a position where he seems to be the pillar of an ever-evolving foundation.
"It's crazy how much things change that quickly," he said. "I'm only going into my fourth year, and literally every year, even though we've had the same coaches, it feels like a new team. I like the stability from the coaches and I like the stability from the core guys that are here."
So, with a lot of stability and a little change, Williams will face the coming season with new challenges ahead. Time moves fast in the NFL and he experienced another hit of reality when he talked with strength & conditioning coach Justus Galac before exiting the facility for a final time at the end of the 2017 season.
"As I was picking up my packet from him I was like, 'Wow, going into year four already. I feel like I just got here.'" Williams said. "It flies by, man, and we really have to take advantage of every opportunity."
Best Images in Black & White from the 2017 Season