Quincy Williams was at first part of a novelty act, a raw, hard-driving linebacker, Jacksonville's third-round pick in 2019, who was a final cut in August and was acquired on waivers by the Jets, where his younger brother, Quinnen, was starting to make a name for himself.
Five weeks later, Williams has changed the perspective on his potential, to the point that Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich made a surprising analysis of where the older Williams could be heading with the Jets and in the NFL.
"Does he need to be more controlled at times? Yes," Ulbrich said after Thursday's practice when asked how best to control his sometimes untamed style of play. "But at the same time, that's his superpower, and we'd never want to take that from him. He has speed, he has aggressiveness, he's got explosiveness that's different and unique and really uncommon in a lot of ways. So now it's just harnessing it within the scheme and fine-tuning it and cleaning up the details and tightening up his technique, which will happen.
"You've already seen improvement from the games he's played. Yeah, he's continued to get better, and who knows how good he could be? I really look at him as a guy who could be one of the top 'backers in the NFL, if he wants to be and he's committed to it and he stays healthy."
Quincy accepts all such compliments and predictions politely but quickly shares the love. For example, he had a strong game in the OT win over Tennessee — his first double-digit tackles game in the NFL with 12 tackles, his first pro sack, another tackle for loss on a reception, and a pass defense — but changed direction in mid-answer about how special the game was for him and Quinnen.
"First of all, I want to credit my defensive line. They kept me clean so I could run around and make tackles," he said. "And also the back end for playing good coverages so we could get sacks and things like that. So it all worked together, that's the main thing. It's like everyone had a hand in it."
Williams was inactive for the opener but in the last three games has moved into the starting lineup and assembled a highlight video of splash plays. Against New England and Denver combined he had 11 tackles and chalked up 4.5 tackles for loss, while also forcing opponents to commit a pair of 10-yard penalties, all on more than 200 defensive snaps.
The player and his coordinator came up with a few ideas on where these seemingly sudden superpowers came from. One is from being reunited with his brother.
"I got to play my senior year in high school with my brother. We used to compete for tackles, had a few arguments in the house over tackles," he recalled with a smile. "We watch film together before games, then during games we said, 'We talked about that happening.' He's my hardest critic, my dad also. ... We kind of go hand in hand with each other."
"I think maybe there's a level of accountability there because of the relationship that they have," Ulbrich theorized. "I think Quinnen's got a different level of transparency and honesty with him that he might not have had in Jacksonville."
The other super source could be that some players just fit better with some coaches, schemes and teams than with others.
"Robert [Saleh] and myself, we've been excited about this kid since he came out of Murray State," Ulbrich said. "When Robert was in San Francisco and I was in Atlanta, we both were begging our front offices to get him, to go draft him. I think it's a good situation from that standpoint because he is raw in a lot of ways but he's got a collective coaching staff and organization that really believe in him, and I think he needs that, like all of us need it."
"Yeah, the Jets made it very homey for me," Williams said. "The number one thing is being patient with me because I did just get here, but that's not an excuse for not holding me accountable."
Game 4 for Quincy in his new team colors is the Jets' little dance in London with Falcons on Sunday. Both Williamses and the entire defense will be tested by savvy veteran QB Matt Ryan and monster returner/back/wideout/tight end Cordarrelle Patterson. But the coordinator thinks his recently arrived LB will continue his maturation process.
"It's been fun getting Quincy in there," Ulbrich said. "Is he perfect? Not close. He has so much more room to grow. But we're just excited by what he can become."