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Notebook | Tyrod Taylor Talks Up 'Freak' Jets WR Mike Williams, His Former Chargers Mate

Top Free Agent LT Tyron Smith Still Has to 'Prove I Can Play to the High Level' His New Team Expects of Him


Tyrod Taylor has already spoken about the chance to work with Aaron Rodgers, a QB he didn't know well before signing with the Jets last week but whom he expects to get up to speed with and learn from in the coming months.

But Taylor is familiar with one of his new teammates in green and white, a fellow unrestricted free agent who came aboard early this week. In fact, Taylor was WR Mike Williams' teammate for two seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers in 2019-20.

"Mike is a freak athlete," Taylor said via conference call in his first extended interview with Jets reporters since joining the team a week ago. "I've seen him do some crazy things at practice as well as in games. You hear often in the league about 50-50 balls. I think with him it's more like 80-20 because he'd always come down with the ball. I'm glad to be back on the field with him."

Taylor played behind Philip Rivers with the 'Bolts in 2019 and then first-round rookie Justin Herbert in 2020. His most extensive game action as a Charger came in the '20 season-opening 16-13 win at Cincinnati, when he started and completed 16 of 30 passes for 208 yards, with four of the connections going for 69 yards to Williams, including a laser-guided 37-yard right-sideline go route.

Taylor had lots of praise for another of his new targets, WR Garrett Wilson, as well as the offense in general. "As a quarterback, you get super-excited when you look at a roster and see so many playmakers," he said. "I think we have a chance to be explosive."

Tyron Smith Still in 'Prove It' Mode
Another player Taylor was pumped to be getting ready to play with and behind is the Jets' new left tackle, 14th-year veteran Tyron Smith."

"It gives you comfort," the QB said about having blindside protection from an eight-time Pro Bower and five-time All-Pro like Smith. "I've got a lot of respect for Tyron. He's a safety blanket over there on the left. He's been a hell of a player for a lot of years."

Smith, also on the Thursday conference calls with reporters, acknowledged that with the injuries that he's battled the past several years, he understood the nature of the incentivized contract he signed to join the Jets.

"Honestly, I'm just excited to be on this team and have the opportunity to continue playing," he said. "Yes, the way the contract is speaks to what's been happening the past couple of years. Honestly, I think it's a fair deal. I've just got to out there and prove I can play to the high level they expect me to."

When healthy, Smith has nothing to prove — he's still considered among the best at protecting his QB's flank. Next Gen Stats notes that last season, which turned out to be his last of 13 with Dallas, he allowed just a 6.7% pressure rate on his 496 pass-blocking snaps, the lowest rate among all NFL left tackles with at least 300 pass-play reps.

And Smith said that despite nearing his 34th birthday in December, his body is ready for the season ahead.

"Physically, I feel great. Coming off last season with no injuries, I can go full-tilt into the offseason," he said. He added that for the past several years, the Cowboys gave him some pitch-count management that included lighter practice-week work and reduced gameday special-teams snaps. But he noted that such approaches vary from team to team and that he and the Jets training, performance and strength staffs "will sit down and come up with a plan" for the offseason and beyond.

Javon Kinlaw's Also Among Friends
The third Jets free agent signee to speak with Jets media, DL Javon Kinlaw, said it was easy for him to focus on leaving the 49ers, who were in the Super Bowl just a month and a half ago, for the Jets, for a couple of reasons. One is that he correctly sensed that North Jersey's woodlands would provide him an occasional respite from football: "I'm a big outdoors guy and this looks like an outdoors area."

But Kinlaw also has a lot of familiarity with some of his new team members. One is head coach Robert Saleh, who was his D-coordinator for one season with the Niners.

"Coach Saleh played a big part in drafting me in 2020," he said. "I've always loved his energy. And he believed in me when I was in a spot where maybe I didn't believe in myself. Going into free agency, I was just super-glad we were able to get it done."

Kinlaw also has been reunited with Jets DL coach Aaron Whitecotton, who was his assistant DL coach in San Francisco in '20. "I always reached out to him, learning how I could get better," he said. "It's a full-circle moment for me."

But what will ultimately see Kinlaw through as a Jet is his perseverance, dedication and work ethic, which enabled him to overcome two years of injuries and enjoy his best season as a pro in 2023.

"It was my first year playing every single game. I never missed a practice or missed anything because I put so much into it," he said. "Every year you've got to put a little more effort into what you're bringing to the table when you come to training camp.

"I'm just excited to see what a second year is going to look like, knowing how to be a pro and how to take care of myself."

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