Jets Starter Set to Return After Replacement Impresses Fanbase

Quincy Williams, Lamar Jackson

Getty Baltimore Ravens' Lamar Jackson blows by New York Jets linebacker Quincy Williams in Week 1.

The New York Jets received some positive news on the injury front after head coach Robert Saleh told reporters that rookie defensive end Jermaine Johnson II would not play in Week 6 — everyone else was a full-go at practice.

That includes linebacker Quincy Williams, whose return to the lineup was confirmed by media members like The Athletic’s Zack Rosenblatt on October 14.

The 2021 riser has missed the past two games with an ankle injury that was suffered against the Cincinnati Bengals. The only question is, should Williams immediately reclaim his central role in this Jets’ defense?

Fans Happy for Quincy Williams but Prefer Kwon Alexander

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After this announcement, the overwhelming sentiment on social media was that while fans were happy to see Williams healthy again, they’d prefer veteran Kwon Alexander continues on as the full-time starter alongside C.J. Mosley.

Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich does not usually rotate at linebacker as he does on the defensive line. Two LBs play almost every snap in this system and the third contributor takes about 25-30% of them when the old-school 4-3 look is utilized.

Based on that philosophy, some fans appear to be worried that Alexander’s role may be minimized upon Williams’ return.

“Happy that Quincy Williams is back healthy. The way Kwon Alexander is playing right now [though], I’d leave him in as the starter,” voiced one fan on Twitter.

NYJ podcaster Matt O’Leary was very straightforward before the Williams injury, stating: “Kwon Alexander needs to start over Quincy Williams.”

“Why are Quincy Williams and CJ Mosley on the field in 2 LB, nickel and dime sets, over Kwon Alexander?” A third supporter questioned on September 26. “It’s baffling.”

Of course, there’s always option B. “They actually need to share the position in order to keep them relentless, for the entire game,” one fan countered, suggesting more of a split. “They [are] vulnerable to get nicked up, 3-4 times a game and need to shuttle in and out when it happens. Bend don’t break needs speed and so 5 DBs is the way to go.”

Breaking Down Kwon Alexander’s Takeover

Williams’ game is more appealing via the eye test than it is analytical. He’s generally killed by grading sites like Pro Football Focus — who currently have him scored as the Jets’ worst defender at a 40.7 mark.

The hard-hitter has been a liability in coverage and he’s often caught out of position with undisciplined play and untrustworthy awareness. Alexander is the more instinctive and experienced of the two and it shows on film.

He leads Williams and Mosley on PFF with a 67.7 so far in 2022 but this takeover goes beyond that. Alexander has been credited with 11 defensive stops and only two missed tackles. He’s a sound and technical asset that is also known for his coverage ability.

In five games, Alexander has only allowed 109 yards through the air compared to Mosley’s 187 and Williams’ 121 in half the time. The former 49ers and Saints vet has also gotten better as he’s earned more reps with his worst outing coming against Cleveland in Week 2. Last week against Miami, he racked up a season-high four defensive stops.

Williams has always been a favorite of Ulbrich, who once admitted that he wanted the Atlanta Falcons to draft him in 2019. The Jacksonville Jaguars castoff was a nice waiver wire find but there’s no need to start him over a proven linebacker who has outplayed him at every turn.

It’s great to have Williams back but this coaching staff should absolutely ride the hot hand if they want to keep winning football games in 2022.

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