The normally loquacious Leonard Williams didn't work the media this week due to being in the concussion protocol, but someone had to chat up Leo's athletic first pro interception at New Orleans. And the next best source was one of the key players in making that happen.
"I had an instinct for what move I was going to set up on my guy," Jets DL Xavier Cooper told me this week about working against Saints RG Larry Warford to get to Drew Brees. "I was setting him up outside and I was like, I'm going to take him inside this play. So I took him inside and I really thought I had the sack, but he threw it away.
"When I got up, I was like, well, that's better than a sack."
Indeed it was. With 1:14 to go in the first half, the Jets suddenly were able to cash in a red zone field goal and cut the Saints' halftime lead to 17-10.
The takeaway was also important in Jets history because, besides being the Big Cat's first interception and also the 23rd INT by a defensive lineman in franchise history, it was the third pick by a Jets defensive lineman this season, following on the heels of Kony Ealy's INT vs. Jacksonville in Game 4 and Muhammad Wilkerson's grab in Game 7 at Miami.
It's the first time the Jets have had three DL interceptions in one season. And the last time they had two was nearly 20 years ago. "That's crazy," said Cooper.
The only three times the Jets had two D-line INTs in a season: <table style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" border="0"> <tbody> <tr> <td style="text-align: left;">Season</td> <td style="text-align: center;">First DL INT</td> <td style="text-align: center;">Second DL INT</td> </tr> <tr> <td>1963</td> <td>DT Laverne Torczon, Game 1 @ BOS</td> <td>DT Charlie Janerette, Game 5 @ SD</td> </tr> <tr> <td>1991</td> <td>DT Scott Mersereau, Game 10 vs. IND</td> <td>DT Scott Mersereau, Game 11 @ NE</td> </tr> <tr> <td>1999</td> <td>NT Jason Wiltz, Game 10 vs. BUF</td> <td>NT Jason Wiltz, Game 11 @ IND</td> </tr> </tbody> </table>
Even crazier would be if Cooper or another Jets DL got a pick against the Chargers on Christmas Eve or at the Patriots to end the season on New Year's Eve. Four would equal the most DL picks by any NFL team since 1963. Five is the record.
Williams, of course, Jets fans know plenty about. Cooper is starting to make his presence felt in the Green & White defense. He was actually drafted by the Browns with a third-round pick acquired in trade from the Patriots in 2015, moved to the 49ers earlier this year, then signed as a free agent with the Jets on Halloween.
His 39 defensive snaps vs. the Saints were his most in his six games with the team, and besides his QB hit on Brees, he was in on four tackles, including a tackle for loss shared with Demario Davis.
"I feel like I'm just trying to get comfortable with the defense, playing with each guy out there, getting more reps," the X-man said. "I feel like the more reps I get, the better I'm going to get."
Cooper could see more of those reps Sunday against L.A. We'll provide one more note on his connection to the Chargers in Friday's 7 Points piece.