FLORHAM PARK, NJ - Leonard Williams turned in a good, solid performance in his first career NFL game, he made several really nice plays but he himself was not impressed at all.
Maybe it's the company he is surrounded with on the defensive line, maybe it's the high expectations of being a star player from USC drafted number six overall or maybe it's just his own incredibly high standards he holds himself to. Whatever it is it should be music to Jets fans ears because it's clear he has the motivation to get better and demand perfection. If yesterday was just the starting point Williams will be a household name soon enough.
"I mean, I don't feel like I played to my best abilities to be honest," Williams said. "And I think part of it is just conditioning. I feel like in college we did a lot of conditioning, and stuff like that, and it's kind of up to myself right now to take care of that on my own. Like after practice or something like that."
In college the coaching staff structures the time for all the extra conditioning the players have to do outside of practice, in the NFL it's up to each individual player to handle that on his own. It's similar to many other jobs people take when first getting out of college it's about learning responsibility for your own actions. No one is going to stay on top of you to make sure you do what you're supposed to do you're just supposed to do it on your own.
Williams said he came to this conclusion on his own, it wasn't his teammates or the coaching staff that was telling him he wasn't doing enough or playing well enough, he felt himself being too tired for his own standards and felt his play slipped at times because of that. So, he said he will take it upon himself to do some extra conditioning after practices.
"They had a few long drives and I just noticed that I was getting pretty tired on those drives," Williams said. "I was coming out of my stance slow and kind of raising up, not staying low and stuff like that, it was just from being tired."
His coach, however, didn't think it was a physical problem of not enough conditioning but he thought it was simply too much energy being expelled early by a rookie playing his first career game in the NFL.
"No, I thought he got winded because I thought emotionally he was too high," Todd Bowles said. "You know, you come out and you got spit on the side of your mouth, and you're slobbering during warmups and pregame and everything like that, that's typically what happens to a rookie first game out and they want to do well and they come out hyperventilating. I'm not saying he did all that but you could see he's an inner-outter type of guy as far as his emotions go but I bet he got tired that way.
"No, I think he's fine," Bowles said. "I mean we run over a hundred-something plays a day at practice from a physical standpoint. I just think he needs to calm down going into the game.
Williams admitted that it was also probably a combination of being too amped and missing some practice time leading up to the regular season with the knee injury as well as only playing for a half in the earlier preseason games.
Williams had five combined tackles, four assists and one by himself, in the game and made numerous contributions to stop the Browns running backs and from his reaction to that performance it would seem he expects to improve by leaps and bounds each and every week and we probably should too.