After playing seven seasons in the NFL, totaling 23.5 sacks, 191 tackles and 4 playoff berths from 2017-20, Jets DT Sheldon Rankins believes there's room for improvement.
"I'm not a perfect player, there's no such thing as that, so I'm always finding ways and little nuances to just take those steps." said Rankins, 28, who could soon be a free agent. "I feel like I still have so much good football left in me. I feel like there's still a level I can get to that I haven't reached yet. I feel like I've played some good football, so I'm just excited for me to know that I still have levels to go and achieve."
Rankins, the Saints first-round pick in 2016 ,will train in the offseason to become a better, faster, stronger, more flexible and explosive athlete for next season. He had a career-high 43 tackles along with 3 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, 7 QB hits and a forced fumble this past season.
"Overall, I had one of my better years as a pro, career-high in tackles," Rankins said. "I didn't get all the sacks I wanted, but I still feel like I rushed really well, caused a lot of disruption, won my reps when given opportunities.
"I always joke with Quinnen [Williams], my job was to be good enough so they couldn't double team him every play. I was pretty much successful with that. … I feel like I had a pretty good season this year."
After five seasons with New Orleans, Rankins has spent the last two in green and white. He's had a front-row seat watching Williams, a fellow DT and team MVP, blossom to a Pro Bowl and All-Pro player with a career-high 12 sacks and 28 QB hits in the 2022 season.
Rankins points to health as a reason for Williams' breakout after he, missed most of training camp in 2021 with a foot injury.
"When you're already months behind everybody else who's just been spending offseason to just become a better football player, you're playing catch up," Rankins said. "In this league, the margin for error, the margin for getting better, because everybody's already so good, it's so small. …
"With [Williams] having that whole offseason to really train and lock in on playing, you were able to see him come in healthy, strong, powerful, explosive."
Rankins saw a difference in the 2019 No. 3 overall pick early in the summer.
"I told him like a week into training camp, whatever the point was you're trying to prove, you've proved it," he said. "Just make sure when it's time to do this and it counts, you can do this. To a man, he's held up his end of the bargain on that one. It's been special to watch.
"His hand strike is as violent as I've ever seen, as powerful as I've ever seen. His ability to always get off blocks, find a way to literally just get the man out the way, there's not many people that can do that consistently. For a young guy, he has so many moves, so many counters, so many ways he can really attack people."
So, what's on tap for Williams' encore?
"He's on top of everything, so for him, he just needs to continue to be himself," Rankins said. "Don't start getting outside of what it took to get him to this point, and he won't. He's a guy who stays true to himself, so I'm excited to see what's in store for the future for Quinnen Williams."