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How Does Will McDonald Hope to Improve on His Rookie Year?

Jets' First-Round Pick Gearing Up for Second Season with the Green & White


While many players normally spend their offseason's relaxing on the beach or recharging with family on vacation, Jets pass rusher Will McDonald IV decided to spend a majority of his first professional offseason at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center.

"I was really here most of the summer just trying to add weight and just learning more about the game," McDonald said. "I was here just helping others and it's just doing what I got to do to be ready for the season. I want to be ready."

When McDonald enrolled as a freshman at Iowa State he weighed a lean 206 pounds. He displayed the bend and burst to be an effective pass rusher in the Big 12 and at the next level but needed to put on weight to contend with bigger offensive linemen.

Over five college seasons, McDonald added nearly 25 pounds. He finished with 33 sacks, 40 tackles for loss and 125 total tackles in 54 career starts. At the 2023 NFL Combine, McDonald weighed 230 pounds and was taken the by Jets in the first round of the draft (No. 15).

It has been a similar story at the NFL level for McDonald. After an impressive collegiate career and a strong first season with limited playtime, McDonald put on weight this offseason. He now weighs 243 pounds and hopes to tip the scales at 245 by the start of training camp in late July.

"I'm at the point now that I wanted to be at this date," McDonald said. "I have better upper strength. I have got about two or three more pounds to gain, and I'll be set for the season as long as I maintain that I should be able to reach my fullest potential every day."

See photos of the Jets' 90-man roster leading up to 2024 training camp.

Last season, McDonald took 16.18% of the snaps on defense over 15 games. In limited action he was relatively productive with 3 sacks, 14 tackles, 4 tackles for less, 5 QB hits and a forced fumble.

"Heading into this year I am paying a lot more attention to the ball now and what things are going on outside of that," McDonald said. "Last year I had some difficulties being focused only what I have to do on a given play, versus now I have been able to approach it differently."

Pass rusher Jermaine Johnson made a significant leap from Year 1 to Year 2 last season that McDonald wants to replicate. Johnson added 10 pounds, from 252 to 262 from his rookie season and it helped him improve on the field. He went from 2.5 to 7.5 sacks and earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl.

"The diet part of the advice I have been getting from the guys has been really important," McDonald said. "Jermaine has been giving me tip on that. He is another reason I started eating rice and chicken four or five times a day, and just pounding water and making sure I am on top of that. I have learned a lot from my boys, I just need to put it into the game and execute."

On top of the advice from his fellow pass rushers, McDonald has been getting a football 401 level of education from future Hall of Fame LT Tyron Smith, going against the All-Pro lineman in OTAs and minicamp.

I have just been picking [Smith's] brain and just having him give me tips on things," McDonald said. "I have been learning what he does and how he approaches the game and seeing how I can attack that in a different way."

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