Sacks don't tell the whole story for Jets' Quinnen Williams

ByRich Cimini ESPN logo
Sunday, November 12, 2023

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:

1. Sack story: When a player's production declines after signing a massive contract, it usually raises a red flag. That isn't the case with defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, whose sack total (0.5) is an anomaly. Based on every pass-rushing metric in our analytics-obsessed world, he's generating more pressure than he did last season when he recorded a career-high 12 sacks and made All-Pro, leading to him landing a four-year, $96 million contract extension.

"He's winning [his matchups], it feels like, at a historic rate," defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said.

Williams ranks in the top five among interior defensive linemen in quarterback pressures (33) and pressure percentage (15.0), per NFL Next Gen Stats. Here's an important number to remember: He's drawing more double-teams than last season, as his double-team rate has increased from 46% of snaps to 51%, fourth among interior linemen. For perspective, Los Angeles Rams star Aaron Donaldhas never hit 50%, not even during his most dominant seasons.

In Williams' case, the double-teams are significant because the added attention has created opportunities for the edge rushers, Bryce Huff (five sacks) and Jermaine Johnson (4.5). Coach Robert Saleh said Williams remains a top-five defensive player, sacks or no sacks.

Funny thing about sacks. When they're plentiful, coaches gush. When they're in short supply, coaches say they're overrated. Players want sacks because it helps in contract negotiations and leads to more all-star votes. Do you think Williams would've been a first-team All-Pro with three sacks instead of 12? Of course not.

Williams would like more one-on-one matchups, and the coaches are working with him to find ways to make that happen. For instance: In the last game, he lined up three plays at defensive end, where players are less likely to be doubled. Ulbrich said, "We're always looking for ways to feature guys, especially your best players." Williams insisted he's not into individual stats, saying, "It's a team sport, bro. It's not all about Q, Q, Q."

2. Hold on to the ball: There's a lot of pressure on quarterback Zach Wilson, who could be playing for his job Sunday night against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC). One area he needs to clean up -- an issue that hasn't garnered much attention -- is his sudden penchant for fumbling.

Wilson has eight fumbles in eight games, including five in the past two. He had only six fumbles in his first two seasons. He should listen to his mentor, Aaron Rodgers, who always preaches that ball security is job security.

3. New York Packers: Remember that Rodgers wish list from the spring? In retrospect, the Jets probably wish they hadn't signed so many names on it. The Rodgers gang -- former teammates with the Green Bay Packers -- isn't producing. An update:

  • Allen Lazard: Benefitting from a weak crop of free agent wide receivers, Lazard landed the largest guarantee ($22 million) of any wideout in free agency even though he never had more than 788 receiving yards in a season. It hasn't been any easy transition. He has the fourth-highest drop percentage among 66 qualified wide receivers (three drops in 35 targets), according to ESPN Stats & Information. He also has four penalties, a team-high for non-linemen. Saleh, who suggested that Lazard might be "slumping," spoke with his privately this week in an attempt to end the funk.
  • Randall Cobb: One of Rodgers' closest friends in football, "Cobby" -- as Rodgers calls him -- signed a one-year, $3 million contract. He began the season as the WR3, but he lost his spot to rookie Xavier Gipson. Cobb's lack of productivity is head-turning. He's averaging 0.17 yards per route, by far the lowest in the league among the 186 players with at least 100 routes run. Cobb, 33, is a positive locker room presence, but he simply can't separate like he once did (just 1.7 yards of average separation between him and the nearest defender). He was a healthy scratch last week.
  • Billy Turner: A favorite of offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, who has coached him on three different teams, the right tackle was responsible for four of the eight sacks last week in his first start, per ESPN Stats & Information. Now he's dealing with a broken finger, which probably will put him back on the bench.
  • Tim Boyle: He has yet to take a regular-season snap, but that could change soon if Wilson's struggles continue. Boyle threw four touchdown passes in the preseason, enough to win a spot on the practice squad. He was added to the 53-man roster when Rodgers got hurt. Now he's the QB2.

One "Rodgers guy" who makes sense is Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams. The Jets inquired him at the trading deadline and they could try again in the offseason. He'd be a perfect fit with Rodgers in the Jets' offense. He has only 51 receptions for 573 yards and three touchdowns, but that's the product of a struggling Las Vegas offense.

"Davante is still Davante," cornerback D.J. Reed said. "The numbers don't show that, but he's still a phenomenal receiver. Every team I've seen is doubling him, so that shows the respect they have for him."

4. Did you know? The Jets are 4-4, averaging 16.5 points per game -- only the second team in the past 10 years to average that few points per game among teams at or above .500 through eight games. The other team? The 2017 Miami Dolphins (14.5). That team, coached by Adam Gase, lost starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, signed a washed-up Jay Cutler -- who had one of his worst statistical seasons -- and finished 6-10.

5. Did you know? Part II:In losing to the Los Angeles Chargers27-6, the Jets became the first team in the past 45 seasons to have five sacks, hold an opponent to fewer than 200 yards and not allow a single 25-yard play but still lose the game by at least 20 points. This factoid probably won't make their media guide.

6. Second chance: The Jets are taking a chance on defensive tackle Perrion Winfrey, a former Cleveland Browns draft pick who was involved in two off-the-field incidents earlier this year. In July, the Browns released Winfrey, a fourth-round pick in 2022, after he was listed as a suspect in an aggravated robbery incident. In April, he was arrested after being accused of grabbing the hand of a woman he was dating, causing "bodily injury," according to court records. Misdemeanor assault charges were dropped when he completed a pre-trial diversion program.

The Jets' staff got to know Winfrey because they coached him in the 2022 Senior Bowl. They considered drafting him in the third round, eventually opting for tight end Jeremy Ruckert. Looking for depth, they signed him this week to the practice squad. "Perrion's not a bad person," Saleh said. "Sometimes players make dumb mistakes."

7. Ring's the thing: Guard Rodger Saffold has played 13 seasons in the NFL trenches, earning more than $77 million. At 35, he could've walked away with pride, but he decided -- after a 10-month hiatus -- to come back.

"It's just always something in the back of your mind," he said. "When you think about the guys that have the championships and you don't, you're like, 'Man, maybe I should just try one more time.'"

Saffold almost won a Super Bowl ring as a member of the Rams, but they lost to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII. So here he is, a member of the Jets' practice squad since Oct. 31, working to get in football shape with the idea of moving up to the active roster at some point. They probably will need him, considering the spate of injuries on the offensive line.

8. Night watch: The Jets are playing back-to-back prime-time games for the first time since 2014. They still have one to go -- Dec. 28 (Thursday) at Cleveland.

9. Fumble! Micheal Clemons missed a potential fumble recovery in Los Angeles territory because he tried to pick up the ball and run instead of simply falling on it. So this week, the defensive line worked on fumble-recovery drills in practice. It's possible the defense is pressing because it knows the offense is struggling to score points.

10. The last word: "You're always going to give those reps to the starting quarterback. ... There's just not enough reps for everybody to go around. Fair question, but not something we can give him." -- Saleh on whether he will give Boyle first-team reps in practice

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