After roughly two months of his professional career, Jets first-round pick Will McDonald is settling in.
"I'll probably say just learning the defense, I'm a little bit better," McDonald said. "It is kind of familiar because I did run this type of defense up in college. I'm now a lot more used to it coming out of nine technique, so I'm starting to get a lot more comfortable with it and a lot more familiar."
The No. 15 overall pick out of Iowa State won't be able to portray what he's fully capable of until the pads come on in training camp in mid-July. There's no contact throughout the offseason program that culminated last week after 10 OTA practices in shorts, T-shirts and helmets. The defensive linemen participated in individual drills, often competing with their get-off times.
"Will looks the part," head coach Robert Saleh said. "I love his personality. He is a dude, man. He's got tremendous length, bend just going through drills. I know there hasn't been much O-line, D-line [1-on-1s], but it's freakish -- his 'bendability' and burst off the ball. Obviously, there's things from a developmental standpoint, all rookies go through it with regards to a little bit more size, a little bit more power, developing the ability to run through tackles is always going to be the biggest thing for a defensive lineman, but I love where he's at right now. He's got a long way to go, but you guys know as we rotate, if they dress on gameday, they're going to play at least 20 [snaps]. He'll be part of the rotation."
See the best photos from all ten OTAs of the 2023 season.
Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich added: "He's got the right mindset. I know that he comes out here and works his butt off every day. He's not having the rookie late to meetings, late to lifting. He's on point as far as all that is concerned. Then athletically, he's got some freakiness to him. We'll see how that translates right away because there's always a little bit of a transition process, but he definitely has some stuff you can't coach."
McDonald was productive for the Cyclones after playing two years of high school football. He tied the Big 12 sacks record with 34 and his 10 forced fumbles were a school record. In 2021, the Milwaukee native, who grew up rooting for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, was named a first-team All-American and Big 12 co-Defensive Lineman of the Year with 11.5 sacks, 14 TFLs and 5 forced fumbles. He was first-team All-Big 12 in 2021 and 2022.
As McDonald transitions from college to the pros, he's leaned on a pair of Iowa State products in Breece Hall and Allen Lazard, and his fellow defensive linemen.
"I've kind of just been treating it the same as I was in college," he said. "I didn't really want to change anything up, but adjusting to the NFL, there's a lot more free time. You definitely have to take care of your body and eat the right food. Definitely one thing I really want to work on is gaining weight. I'm currently at 242 right now, but I'm trying to get 248. I feel like I've been doing a good job taking care of that aspect.
"It's a lot of new things to learn in the NFL, especially in this defense. There's not really something that I really have to adjust to a lot."