He was just a pup when the Jets drafted him third overall out of Alabama, but now he is ready to be the Big Dog in Robert Saleh’s kennel.
Quinnen Williams was smiling plenty and it wasn’t solely because he was activated off the PUP list (fractured foot); he is champing at the bit to play for a dream head coach in a dream scheme that will unleash his explosive skills on the NFL and enable him to take a Year 3 leap that third-overall draft picks should be expected to make.
“I ain’t did nothing yet. … I haven’t scratched the surface on what I can become,” Quinnen Williams said.
I asked him if he had watched 49ers defensive tapes from Saleh’s time there as defensive coordinator, and he said: “2019, I’ve been watching every tape since about two years now. When they had Buck (DT DeForest Buckner), (DE-DT Arik) Armstead, Nick Bosa, man them guys were rolling. Even that year when they went to the Super Bowl, I was watching their tape, how much fun those guys were having, like Kwon Alexander was there, one of my good friends. Watching those guys ball, watching those guys get off, watching those guys dominate that year. “
Now Williams, as an agile, hostile, mobile 305-pound Monster in the Middle, will be able to attack at the three-technique in the 4-3 alongside DE Carl Lawson, DT Sheldon Rankins and the waves of defensive linemen Saleh will send at opposing quarterbacks and running backs.
“We’ll be able to feed off each other, man. … When you got a family full of sharks man, you’re all gonna eat, so that’s how I look at it,” Williams said.
Saleh was quite interested in Williams before the 2019 draft. The 49ers, with the second-overall pick, opted for Bosa.
“I been a Robert Saleh fan, man, going through the process of the draft,” Williams said. “Me and him talked a lot going through that process. Getting an opportunity to have him here was an amazing upgrade for me in my career.”
Let’s all try to resist the Adam Gase insults right here.
“You get a chance to unleash yourself, get after the quarterback, get a chance to just be explosive,” Williams said. “Last year I played in the 3-4 and it was like a lot of reading and catching blocks and stuff like that and now that I get to explode and get off the ball and stuff like that. It’s very different in the beginning, but as I continue to learn and continue to get everything down pat, it’s super fun to me.
“I ust redid my whole entire stance … like you learned that in little league.
“It helped me unleash some explosive traits that I have.”
Williams began to emerge in 2020 with 55 tackles, seven sacks, 14 quarterback hits, 10 tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles.
“The man is just pure mass, right?” Saleh said. “I mean you look at him, he’s enormous, and to get all that mass moving forward without having to read anything on the fly is just absolute attack up front. It’s hard to stop that mass from moving, especially with how strong he is, how smart he is, how violent he is and how explosive he is. So, the amount of knock-back that we feel like he’ll be able to generate in this scheme and the amount of disruptions that we feel like he’ll be able to generate, it’s going to be awesome, but obviously he’s behind.”
Not to worry.
“It’s not gonna take me that long,” Williams said. “I feel good man, everything’s going in the right direction.”
He worked in the offseason with former longtime defensive line coach Jim Washburn and watched film of two of his disciples, Fletcher Cox and Ndamukong Suh.
“Super-excited, man to have a group of guys in that room in general,” Williams said. “Especially Carl coming in, explosive pass rusher, great mindset, a good veteran to be around. … We got a great room, man, we feed off each other, everybody does something different and everybody does something that another person can’t do that teaches another defensive lineman. Like Sheldon is super quick-twitch and can do a whole bunch of moves that I can’t do ’cause I’m more power and different stuff like that.”
Williams won’t play in Green Bay on Saturday. But Beware of Dog when you see 95 this season.
“I just want to execute and dominate every single play that I can,” Williams said.
I asked him if he feels pressure to live up to his draft status.
“It’s been three years since I been the third pick,” he said. “Nobody really remembers I was the third pick so I don’t have no pressure at all, man. I’m my worst critic.”
He is still just 23, and a newlywed.
“I got a great wife, that’s why I had to go ahead and scoop her up and marry her,” Williams said with a great big smile. Pup no more.
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