If the Jets do eventually turn things around, second-year defensive tackle Quinnen Williams figures to play a key part in a revival. But as the Green & White, still on the hunt for a first win with Christmas less than a week away, head to Los Angeles for a matchup with the 9-4 Rams, Quinnen Williams isn't thinking about being a foundational pillar.
"It's not really important to be a building block," he said this week. "I just want to be a great teammate, a great person, a great player and just a leader. I'm not really a big vocal leader, the coaches can tell you I'm a leader by example. I feel like if I just go out and do my job the best I can and go out there and make plays, everyone will follow."
Williams, the third-overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, leads the defense in sacks (6), tackles for loss (9) and QB hits (13) this season. Also, according to Next Gen Stats, Williams' 14 run stuffs (zero or negative yards) are fourth in the NFL among defensive linemen and his 31 QB pressures are also tied for fourth among most interior linemen.
"I just focus on dominating my box every play, just trying to win every single play I ever play," Williams said. "I don't want to look at end goals. I don't want to look at goals in general because when you set a goal and when you don't get to your goal or you get to your goal — it doesn't really matter in the end. If you dominate your box and win every play, you're going to be successful in whatever you do."
While the 6-3, 303-pound Williams has become a good player in Year 2, the Jets will face the most fearsome defensive interior player in football in Week 15. Aaron Donald, a six-time Pro Bowler and five-time All-Pro, has 12.5 sacks, 24 QB hurries and 4 FF this season.
"Quinnen is a young player and he has some moments where it's impressive," said Jets head coach Adam Gase. "I think what makes Aaron Donald Aaron Donald is that consistency of if you do not double team him, he is getting to the ball carrier or getting to the quarterback. Like he changes the game so much, it's hard to explain, you have to watch it."
Donald, who was named the Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2017 and '18, is already considered one of the best defensive tackles in league history. He leads the NFL's top defense that in their last time out sacked Patriots' passers 6 times and totaled 10 QB hits , and added a pick-six in a 24-3 LA rout. Donald was responsible for 1.5 sacks and 2 QB hits despite drawing equal the attention Kim Kardashian would get walking down Rodeo Drive.
"When you watch this guy get double teamed almost every snap, and the five snaps he gets singled up, he wins," Gase said. "I'm sure every D-tackle is trying to get to that point, especially guys that have similar skill sets of length, quickness, strength, things like that, they're like, 'Hey, I want to be like that guy.' "
Despite their current predicament, the Jets do have pieces in place on both sides of the ball that could help reverse their fortunes. Marcus Maye is a playmaking safety who has shined as a leader; Jamison Crowder remains a quality target whom players also gravitate toward; both LT Mekhi Becton and WR Denzel Mims have shown great promise on the offensive side of the ball; and run-plugger Folorunso Fatukasi and Williams look to be a fine tandem in the making.
"He's stronger and more aware, he studies the game better," Jets' interim defensive coordinator of Frank Bush said of Williams. "He's more mature than what he was, and you see that on the field. Tremendous potential, one of few guys with that size who play inside, what I call slippery for a big guy. He does things from a big guy standpoint you don't see from other people. The more he learns the game, he's going to be a force."
Donald has already written the book on force. He has an advanced degree in havoc and this will be a difficult matchup for a Jets offense that totaled 3 points last week in Seattle and has been held to 9 points or fewer in four of their six road games. The Rams come at you in waves up front but everything starts with Donald and even with the return of Mims to the lineup, the Jets O-line has to be a lot better than it was last week in front of Sam Darnold.
"We have to play better up front, really the whole unit has to play better," Gase said. "We didn't do nearly enough last week, but it starts up front and at the same time, the quarterback is at a little bit of the mercy of wide receivers, tight ends, skill position players as far as being in the right place at the right time."
Williams will visit Aaron Donald's house Sunday when the Jets and Rams meet at SoFi Stadium. The former is far from a finished product and that's a good thing, while the latter is in the conversation of being the NFL's best player. As far as Williams is concerned, the priority is just winning the next play and stacking up those blocks.
"In the future, I think I'm going to get better and better because I have a lot of growing to do," he said. "I'm just going into my third year, so I just feel like I have to keep going forward and keep building blocks every day. Not take a step back."