No. 56 on the Jets' defense says he's living life and playing football in "Cheetah Mode."
"When you see the ball take off, the cheetah mindset," LB Quincy Williams said. "I got it on my phone, the cheetah hunting the gazelle. Every pregame I'm in the locker room with my phone sideways. I'm locked in in 'Cheetah Mode.' "
"The cheetah, it's his precision no matter which way he's going he's locked in," Williams told Eric Allen on this week's edition of "The Official Jets Podcast." "It's like me chasing a running back or a wide receiver. I'm not trying to change speed when I'm moving. It's just the aggression of it. How the cheetah grabs a gazelle, that's how I'm going to grab the player. Thing is I ain't going to bite him though."
In his third, breakout season with the Jets after signing a new three-year contract in the offseason, Williams through six games is No. 4 league wide in solo tackles (47). He has taken 97% (420) of the team's snaps on defense, surpassed only by his tireless running mate -- captain C.J. Mosley who has been on the field for every defensive snap so far this season. The wily veteran and the up-and-comer give the Jets an exceptional off-the-ball linebacking tandem.
"I'm not going to say he's old," Williams said, referring to Mosley, a constant mentor and a five-time selection to the Pro Bowl. "It just feels like he's playing a bit younger!" He added: "But I'm still trying to teach him how to swim."
During the Jets' week off, Quincy and his younger brother Quinnen went to watch their sibling play a football game in their hometown, Birmingham, AL. While Quinnen, who went on to play at Alabama, focused on football, Quincy was initially more interested in splashing around the pool as a Junior Olympic swimmer.
"The reason I started playing football is because we got into an argument one day," Quincy said. "He told me that his tackles are going to be worth more one day than my gold medals. We ended up changing sports, just competing with each other and it was another way we could spend time together and compete with each other. He's a swimmer, too. In the offseason we had a talk about wanting to fine-tune little things. Swimming is not bad on your body, but you also get conditioning. We got back in the pool. He was following what I was doing."
Through six games, what Quincy "was doing" is making life miserable for the opposition. His numbers are stellar: 60 total tackles, 2 sacks (on the same game-defining drive at Denver), 4 PDs, 4 QBHs, a forced fumble (at Denver) and a fumble recovery in the upset win over defending NFC champion Philadelphia. Also against the Eagles, Quinnen nabbed an interception (his first in the NFL). They became only the second pair of brothers in 30 years to nab takeaways in the same game.
At Denver, Quincy followed a sack of Russell Wilson on the Broncos' last-gasp drive with a strip sack. The fumble was picked up by CB Bryce Hall and returned for a game-sealing TD.
"Throughout the game I was playing in the scheme and not getting lazy," he said. "I'm lining up on the line of scrimmage, but not coming. But as soon as the time came, I wanted to make it look the same and then I take off. The coaches [DC Jeff Ulbrich] made the call. I kept wondering why I was even on the line of scrimmage so much. Then I got the call and it's 'OK, now I know.' "
Since joining the Jets ahead of the 2021 season as a waiver claim after being cut by Jacksonville (the second LB selected in the 2019 NFL Draft), the knock against Williams was that he was a speedy rough diamond who could be exploited in pass coverage. He acknowledged both seeming deficiencies and has gone about transforming himself into a complete linebacker.
"Speed was my strength, but it was too strong," he said. "I was too fast, over-pursuing and sometimes out of place. How can I control my speed and be better in coverage? I had to learn how to fit into the scheme." He added: "I'm doing more listening this year, not running around trying to make every play. I'm making plays that come to me on my side of the field."
According to Next Gen Stats, Williams has been the most-targeted off-the-ball linebacker but has allowed only the 12th-most yards (161) and has defended 5 passes, tied for first at his position. The analysis noted that the number of targets led to more yards allowed and had an impact on his score down. "On a per-attempt basis, though, his 4.4 yards per attempt allowed is the ninth-lowest out of 60 off-ball linebackers (min. 10 targets)." Pro Football Focus grades Mosley and Williams as No. 1 and No. 2 in pass coverage in the league.
The two LBs have helped spark the Jets' second-half defense, which is No. 1 in the league allowing only 5.2 second-half points a game, after holding the Eagles without a point. Asked if he and Mosley comprise the best linebacker tandem in the NFL, Williams did not mince words.
"Yes, for sure, and we're just getting started," he said. "We are in the middle of the season, but boom, we want to feel like this is Game 1 for us. All those numbers, for us, happened last year. Right now, it's what are you going to do this week. The next game is Game 1 for us. The first half of the season was no fluke."