The Jets defense, which "won" last year's first Green & White Practice at MetLife Stadium under then-new head coach Robert Saleh against the offense, didn't lose the battle in the one-year rematch Saturday night. But as D-lineman Quinnen Williams said, his unit had its positive moments, and there are more of those moments to come.
"We did a good job but we have a long way to go," Williams said following the two-hour practice before 17,500-plus loud and proud fans in the MLS stands. "We have a standard we want to play to, things we want to accomplish in this league, as a whole and as a defense. We've got to concentrate on stacking the days."
In the first two 11-on-11 drills of the evening, the Jets' first two offensive units, with Zach Wilson in his second G&W event and Joe Flacco leading the way, stacked up the D just a little. The two QBs completed all nine of their passes en route to a pair of crisp touchdown drives.
But then the defense roared to life. New Jets veteran Solomon Thomas had a "sack" of Wilson while Carl Lawson continued his comeback from last year's early Achilles injury with several strong pressures. Tanzel Smart, fighting for a spot on the regular-season roster, had a couple of stuffs of free agent rookie RB Zonovan Knight. CB Bryce Hall got a nice pass defense and almost an interception of Wilson on one "second half" play during team drills, then LB Del'Shawn Phillips secured an INT on the very next play.
"We have a lot of stuff that's a point of emphasis for us," Williams said, one of those points being goal-line defense, which rose up to stop the offense on downs in the two-minute drill that ended the night. "We have a lot of goals that we want for our whole defense. We're not at the end of the rainbow, man. We're just starting to become the defense we want to become and the team we want to become."
One of the secrets for the surge especially by the D-line in the first two weeks of training camp and the group's high hopes for the rest of the season come from the strong depth that general manager Joe Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh assembled this offseason. There are 17 defensive linemen on the team and they're not only there to help Saleh, DC Jeff Ulbrich and DL coach Aaron Whitecotton draw up four separate line units as if it were a hockey team on turf.
"The group of guys we have in our room is amazing," Williams said in his rapid-fire delivery. "Every single one of them work their butts off. Not all of them are going to be able to stay for the whole season. But we push each other to bring the best out of each other every single day. If each and every one of us is at 100 percent, if we push each other to get to 100 percent, we're going to be dangerous."
How dangerous still remains to be fully measured. The Jets and their fans will have a better idea based on how they perform next Friday night in their preseason opener at Philadelphia against the Eagles.
See the Green & White on the field at MetLife Stadium.