Last week ahead of the New York Jets Week 4 matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers, defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich provided a sound bite on star D-tackle Quinnen Williams that he’d probably like to have back — throwing social media into an immediate frenzy.
The comment came during a question about his unpopular D-line rotation. “[More snaps for Williams] is the instinct, for sure,” Ulbrich voiced at the time. “There’s like these critical moments in-game and [you think] — ‘why’s Quinnen not out there?’ — and you look to the side and he’s gasping for air.”
Although the slight didn’t appear intentional, many fans ran with the latter part of that statement, either ripping Ulbrich on social media or questioning his ability as a coordinator. The situation intensified after Williams fired back with a cryptic response on Twitter but in the end, the DT showed out on Sunday with one of his best performances as a Jet vs the Steelers.
Today on October 6, Ulbrich attempted to squash any perceived beef between the coaching staff and Williams.
Ulbrich: ‘Quinnen’s a Guy I Have Tremendous Respect For’
No matter your opinion of Ulbrich, you have to give him some credit for what he did this afternoon at his Week 5 press conference. Not once did he complain about his words being taken out of context, nor did he display any anger toward reporters or the situation.
What the Jets DC did show the fanbase and his locker room was remorse, and it felt candid.
“Yeah, I absolutely talked to [Williams],” Ulbrich responded when asked about the situation. “Quinnen’s a guy that I have tremendous respect for not only as a football player but as a man, and for him to have felt any angst or felt anyway about that would have really bothered me because I have tremendous respect for him. It was never my intent to insult him or say anything bad about him I love the guy in every way… I have no questions regarding anything about him, conditioning or otherwise. He’s an absolute game-wrecker — kick-a** player — in every way.”
“[I] just love having him here with us,” Ulbrich concluded, “and I hope that we have him here for a long time.”
Defense Showed Positive Signs in Week 4
Few fans are convinced that Ulbrich is the guy that should be calling plays for this Robert Saleh defense but if the former NFL linebacker is ever going to prove that he is, he needs more outings like Week 4.
Gang Green frustrated the Pittsburgh offense in every way.
For once, the rotation appeared to work as the Jets pass rushers pressured Steelers quarterbacks 13 times with several turnovers that stemmed from rushed throws and hurried decisions. Although Williams led the way, Bryce Huff tied him in pressures (three) during his first activation of the season — and he did so off nine total snaps!
Another low-snap contributor, rookie Micheal Clemons, had two pressures off his nine pass-rushing opportunities (16 snaps total). Carl Lawson matched Clemons in pressures but added a sack, along with Williams and rookie Jermaine Johnson II.
In total, seven different players were credited with a QB pressure on Pro Football Focus. The only three defensive linemen that didn’t were all interior guys (Sheldon Rankins, Solomon Thomas and Nathan Shepherd).
There are certainly some challenges that may arise behind this rotational strategy but so long as the Jets are forcing four turnovers per game (interceptions by Lamarcus Joyners [two], Jordan Whitehead and Michael Carter II), Ulbrich and Saleh will hear less outside noise.
The Jets only allowed 297 total yards of offense in Pittsburgh with an impressive season-low of 178 passing yards against. They face a tougher test vs Miami assuming explosive pass-catchers like Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle and Mike Gesicki are all present and accounted for. Former Jets QB Teddy Bridgewater will lead the Dolphins’ offense with Tua Tagovailoa sidelined after last week’s scary concussion injury.