FLORHAM PARK: It took just one minute, but those 60 seconds may have made all the difference for Jets rookie Leonard Williams.
During the week leading up to New York's matchup with the Miami Dolphins, Jets head coach Todd Bowles called Williams aside for a little chat. While Williams had been far, far from bad for New York, he hadn't yet made the impact the team had hoped for when they selected him with the sixth pick in this year's draft.
Bowles believed it was because Williams was thinking too much on the field. So, he told him to stop.
"Once he told me that," Williams said, "I felt a lot more free and I got after it."
In a victory versus Miami, Williams put together the best game of his young NFL career. While he didn't record a sack, he hit quarterback Ryan Tannehill five times, pressured him countless others and gave the signal caller a continual four-quarter long headache. At the end of the game, Bowles awarded his rookie defensive end the first game ball of his career, and told him he played "great."
"I fixed what I was doing and I think that made him proud of me," Williams said. "The biggest thing he talked to me through the week about was that he needed me to get off the ball, play with my hands and play like the reason (the Jets) drafted me. I was just able to take his words and apply it to the field."
Williams said in the season's previous three games, he was always a little worried about making the wrong movement to get himself out of position. By doing that, he said, a running or throwing lane could open up, thus resulting in a big play. As a result, Williams wasn't on the field doing what made him such a dominant player at USC. Instead, he was thinking, not feeling, the game.
Bowles saw that, and pointed it out to the rookie. His main message? Don't worry about making mistakes, just go play ball.
"In the beginning, I was just trying to stay in my gap, do my job," Williams said. "I wasn't letting loose or making plays. (Bowles) talked to me and pretty much said just go out there and let loose. He said if I get out of my gap, we'll fix it."
The Williams on display two Sundays ago was the same one that led many scouts to label him a "can't miss" and top defensive player in the draft. And when you combine that Williams with the likes of Muhammad Wilkerson and the recently-reinstated Sheldon Richardson, you get a group that will be giving much more than Tannehill fits.
"We've got a lot of guys up front that can get after the ball," Williams said. "We can probably switch it up too and be a bit more versatile with some new packages and keep people fresh with some rotations.
"I really haven't thought about it in terms of how they see it, but the way we see it, it's probably the same. It can be a little scary."