Last year, Jets safety Tony Adams sat behind the safety tandem of Jordan Whitehead and Lamarcus Joyner and learned the ropes as an NFL understudy. Now, the former undrafted rookie is ready to start Monday in the regular season opener against the Buffalo Bills.
"My prep and my experience have allowed me to get to a place where I am confident in what I am doing and can go out there and execute," Adams said. "I think that's the biggest step I've taken from this last year. I knew I could get here last year, but this year, the opportunity was given and I kind of stepped into the role and haven't looked back since."
Adams played in 11 games last season – mostly on special teams – and started in Week 18 against Miami. For the year, Adams played 104 defensive snaps and finished with 17 tackles.
He rode the momentum into the offseason, had a productive OTA period and minicamp, and it led to a strong training camp. Adams said he changed hiseating habits this offseason, dropped 10 pounds and got down to 201.
"I think I didn't really understand how to eat before," Adams said. "I think now like; I watch the calories. I'm taking less stuff that I don't need. I'm not going to say I was eating bad before, but I know how much I need. I feel a lot better."
See photos of the Jets during Friday's practice at 1 Jets Drive.
Throughout camp and in his only preseason action against the Giants, Adams impressed defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich and head coach Robert Saleh. He will line up with Whitehead against the Bills after Chuck Clark, acquired from the Ravens this offseason, went down with a knee injury in OTAs.
"We had a lot of excitement going into training camp for him," Saleh said. "I thought it would be good to see him compete, and he competed. He's earned that job, and now it's just a matter of him just calming his world down and taking it one day at a time and enjoying it."
Right off the bat, Adams and the secondary will have their hands full with QB Josh Allen and the Bills offense that finished second in total yards (6,361) and passing touchdowns (35) in 2021.
"Great quarterback with a strong arm that can make every throw on the field," Adams said. "Hemakes great decisions and also has great legs and athleticism. I think sometimes that can be underrated. A great challenge. We aren't running from it."
Bills wideout Stefon Diggs will also pose a significant challenge. Last season, Diggs had 108 catches for 1,429 yards and 11 touchdowns. Against the Jets, Diggs was held to 8 receptions for 130 yards in a pair of matchups.
"He's a really good player and all-around receiver and can do everything," Adams said. "He's going to be a great challenge for us, but we are up for the challenge. We aren't backing down from anybody. And it's going to be an exciting matchup come Monday."
With the defending AFC East champions coming to town, Monday's game will have an electric atmosphere at MetLife Stadium. Adams said he loves to feed off the noise — positive or negative. While at Illinois, Adams played in several raucous environments that have prepared him for what Monday could be like. In 2021, Adams and Illinois upset No. 7 Penn State at Beaver Stadium in nine overtimes, 20-18, in front of 105,001 in attendance. He expects the crowd noise to be similar in the Meadowlands.
"We went Penn State and played at their homecoming I think," Adams said. "I think it was the longest game in college football history and went to like nine overtimes. And it was so loud in there that the stadium was vibrating. You could hear nothing, and I loved it."