It is finally that time of training camp, no more shorts and t-shirts, no more going “on air” or against dummies. This is where we find out who is for real and wants to make this team and who is a shorts and t-shirt “hero”. Below I will highlight three young players on the defensive side of the ball, who need to continue their progression especially when the full gear goes on. If my “Big 3” players can continue to elevate their game and show signs of legitimacy, the Jets will have the right pieces for a successful football team moving forward.
Jamal Adams, Safety
- It seems to me that every time an LSU product comes into the league they contribute right off the bat as if they have been here for 4 or 5 years. I have a sneaky suspicion that Jamal Adams will be one of those guys, and boy could we use that. Throughout the spring at rookie mini camp and OTA’s we all heard the rumblings about his leadership skills already showing and his immense dedication to film study, resulting in him literally calling out offensive alignments as well as plays in team period. While at LSU Jamal was slapped with the “box” safety tag as he more often then not came down to the line of scrimmage, taking the tight end or running back out of the backfield. This resulted in many favorable match ups for him as he was far more athletic and physical then anyone he was going up against, thus leading to his 76 total tackles and 1 sack. In the NFL though these tight ends and running backs are much stronger and faster, they are going to test Jamal’s physicality right off the bat. The Jets jumped all over Jamal with the 6th pick in this years draft with every intention of him becoming the back end leader this team has been seeking for the past couple of years or forever, really. We’ll need to see continued improvement, corrections after mistakes, and the play making ability this top 10 pick can bring to this defense as this training camp moves on. After the first two days of camp several coaches and people in the organization have been thoroughly impressed with what they’ve seen from Jamal as well as fellow rookie Marcus Maye. Coach Bowles statement after yesterdays afternoon practice; “They could only get better. Their maturity level as far as learning the plays exceeded what we wanted as far as expectations as rookies. We think those guys are ready to play.” As practice begins to intensify over the coming weeks, lets keep a close eye on Jamal and hope he takes the necessary steps in becoming the future Pro Bowler we know he can be.
Darron Lee, Middle Linebacker
- Darron Lee this past season had moments that would make me straight up giddy, leaving me overly impressed with his speed and athleticism. He also had moments that brought me back to reality understanding he is just a rookie and absolutely needs to fine tune certain aspects of his game. At the end of the day he was a converted Quarterback/Corner as a freshman and voted 2nd Team All Big-Ten by coaches in his sophomore year while replacing fellow first rounder Ryan Shazier at linebacker. When watching Lee his sideline to sideline speed and first step off the ball is the reason why he was added to be one of the building blocks for this defense. To prove that thought, take a look back at last years week 2 game up in Buffalo as Lee was given the daunting task of “spying” quarterback Tyrod Taylor for the entire game. There were multiple big plays Lee had made which helped contain Taylor and keep him within the pocket as much as possible. That is an attribute this defense has lacked for quite some time with the aging David Harris and underachieving Demario Davis years prior. This training camp will be a stepping stone for Lee as he is now filling in for castoff veteran David Harris. Expect Lee to have the green sticker on his helmet, calling the plays and making sure the defensive front correct alignment. For this to be a successful training camp Lee needs to improve on play recognition as many rookie linebackers struggle with that when coming to the league, as well as improving his pass defense against running backs and tight ends. Having a player like Lee at the second level leading the linebackers along with Adams in the secondary, is a combination with the potential to lead top defenses for the Jets in years to come.
Leonard Williams, Defensive Lineman
- “I’m not really focused on self-accolades besides how much I can do for my teammates,” he said. “I’m expecting the same thing out of my teammates, too, and how much they can give to the team. I’m really focused on what we can do together because I’m not on the field by myself. There’s 10 other people and they help me do my job. I’m going to try to help them do theirs.” That statement right there after yesterdays practice is why Leonard Williams is becoming a cornet stone for this franchise and will be for years to come. Leo was the first piece to this youth movement that began two off seasons ago, he has exploded on the scene with a pro bowl caliber season last year. Jamal Adams and Darron Lee should pay close attention to how Leo has handled himself since becoming a Jet, team first attitude with a non-stop motor. Just think of the type of defense this can eventually be with these three players playing at the highest level Big Cat is approaching. As for Leo himself, this season will be fun to watch and see the strides he has made and confidence he will play with after capping last season off with a trip to the Pro Bowl. Leo will look to improve on his pass rushing skills from both defensive end as well as 3-technique, if any guard in this league believes they can handle him for a full game alone, good luck. The amount of pressure Leo will contribute on his own will only benefit those around him like Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson, this three headed monster will give opposing offensive lines headaches the whole game. There is not much if not anything to critique when it comes to Leonard Williams, the guy is a stud and will only get better. Expect Leo to take on more of a leadership role this training camp and continue that role throughout the season. This team has cut bait with a lot of veteran presence and guys who have been sporting this uniform for 10+ years, identity is surely lacking as many dont know who or what we will be this year. Leonard Williams will be an integral part in changing that stigma so expect that to begin today when football becomes football.