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New York Jets DC Gregg Williams’ aggressive, deceptive defense (Film Room)

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  1. New York Jets DC Gregg Williams’ aggressive, deceptive defense (Film Room)

Gregg Williams ESNY Graphic

 

New York Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams brings his aggressive, deceptive, physical brand of football to New Jersey.

Sabo Film Room

“Put your testicles in the C-gap.”

With that one short yet substantial film session coaching point, Gregg Williams became one of the stars of “HBO’s Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Cleveland Browns” this past summer.

Williams, 60, is now the newest New York Jets defensive coordinator. Or, more appropriately, he’s become the defensive head coach (while Adam Gase runs the offense).

 

Sowing his oats during the early 1990s in Houston with the Oilers, he worked under Buddy Ryan for a season (1993). He also paid close attention to Dick LeBeau‘s famed zone blitz with the Pittsburgh Steelers. After Super Bowl appearance with Jeff Fisher and a failed head coaching stint in Buffalo, he’s settled down as one of the NFL’s most respected defensive minds.

His true holy grail was capped at the end of the 2009 NFL campaign when his New Orleans Saints defense beat Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl.

Strategically, he’s a man of many influences. There’s no question he relies on an aggressive style of play. When he’s cornered, he sends the pressure. When the game is on the line, he sends the pressure.

 

Understand, however, that the man isn’t reckless.

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First, let’s understand the current personnel.

 

4-3 Personnel

New York Jets Defense

New York Jets Defense

Right off the top, don’t consider Avery Williamson as the answer in the middle. Gregg Williams loves to run the Cover 2 Buc. This means the MIKE must be a fleet-of-foot, coverage monster. In fact, Darron Lee may actually fit the MIKE nicer within this system. We simply have A-Will listed as the MIKE due to current personnel defaults.

The edges are what’s critical. Williams’s most genius playcalling would fail if both edges remain bare. The 4-3, especially his 4-3 only thrives if the defensive ends can win one-on-one pass-rushing battles.

New York Jets Defense

New York Jets Defense

New York is much better off in the nickel at the moment as long as Henry Anderson is brought back. It matters very little that he doesn’t fit within the base. Sub-packages (11 personnel) is the new base in the league, meaning he, alongside Leonard Williams, combine as a monstrous interior pass-rushing duo.

Sure, a corner is needed opposite Trumaine Johnson, but it’s both edges and the MIKE that remains of the utmost importance this offseason.

4-3 Variations

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The rough estimate concerning the number of Gregg Williams fronts is around 42. That’s incredible. Players within his unit are equipped with a huge playbook and need to come loaded with football IQ.

As far as the 4-3 base is concerned, remember the big four.

The 4-3 Pro is the standard. With four defensive linemen (usually a 3-technique defensive tackle and a 1-technique nose tackle) and three linebackers on the second level, Williams routinely runs the 4-3 pro.

The 4-3 Under is identified when the SAM drops down on the strong-side edge. This pinches in the strong side edge and 3-technique.

The 4-3 Over usually showcases the SAM as outside of the box—outside of the tight end or tackle while still on the second level. The over is still identified even in the 4-2-5 nickel when the slot corner is doing his thing.

Finally, the 4-3 Okie is what’ll remind you of a Todd Bowles defense. It’s the 3-4 pro setup while running with 4-3 personnel. There are plenty more variations such as the Eagle (which looks like an Okie but pinches in the three interior defensive linemen even further), but we’ll leave that one to the imagination for now.

Rush Defense

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As aggressive as Gregg Williams is, deception is just as raging.

In the above example, the strong safety is lined up in a wide 9 space. This means Jamal Adams. Routinely, Williams will use his strong safety in so many spots which is why his marriage with The President will flourish.

Both the safety and the defensive end, lined up in a 6i, crash down on this early-down run situation. They guess right with the Pittsburgh Steelers running an inside zone yet if the back bounced it out, the SAM, who’s on scrape duties, must shut down the edge and turn it in.

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Deception. Watch Drew Brees presnap in the above example.

He kills the original call and moves to a strong-side A-gap run. It looks incredibly open due to the 1 and 4i positioning.

That’s just a Williams trap.

We know it’s a trap due to the defensive tackle lined up at the 1 crossing face so aggressively to shut down the strong-side A-gap. It’s a tremendous example of run-game trap deception.

Blitzes

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The single blitz concept Gregg Williams loves most is the overload.

Much like Rex Ryan, Williams loves the exotic action. He’s filled with complex schemes that attempt to turn the offensive line’s attention one way while overloading the opposite side.

The above example is actually only a four-man rush. It’s technically not a blitz.

It doesn’t matter. It’s so impactful that four men are all that’s needed while still dropping seven in coverage.

The other callout is the zone-blitzing concept. Routinely, Williams will drop not only edges, but interior defensive linemen as well. This means you, Leonard Williams. Get those hands ready.

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Again, another (technically) non-blitz that would have hit home.

It’s a four-man inside pressure with both edges dropping into the flats. Presnap, it looks like the wide receiver screen is going to pop (outnumbering the defense three-to-two). But instead of playing the flat with the strong-side backer, he pops out the strong-side edge while yielding a free-runner inside.

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Here’s the truest form of an overload blitz.

Two defensive linemen, one linebacker, and two defensive backs combine to snag Drew Brees on a big down. The key is the two defensive linemen. They must crash hard in the effort to take the attention of the left guard and center to the right side.

Once that happens, one DB and the linebacker will form a two-on-one with the lone running back staying home.

Jamal Adams is going to be a monster.

Coverage

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Quite frequently, Gregg Williams will roll presnap. He’ll do his best to disguise coverages presnap while also maintaining balance throughout the game.

In this example, a single-high press turns out as a two-deep coverage.

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What in the world is this cornerback doing? For one thing, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t acting on his own accord.

First and foremost, look how inside he is presnap. It’s not even an inside CB technique. It’s something out of this world. Williams’s defensive backs do these wacky things at times simply to force the quarterback to scratch his head.

On this play, it’s a clear defensive shot play. The corner is jumping the seam. Should Derek Carr actually complete a deep out on the wide side of the field, Williams would have tipped his cap and said “good job.”

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Williams mixes in a ton of single-high and two-deep looks. In single-high, he often labels it a single-high angel. Angel, for its completely different zip code the centerfielder is playing.

Due to his aggressive nature, he hates to see his unit get beat over-the-top. Marcus Maye will be playing much deeper this coming season.

When it’s two-deep, it’s not necessarily always the two safeties.

In the above example, the corner and a safety take the two-deep while starting in the three-deep look presnap.

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Aggressive? Yes. But his defense will also drop nine on occasion.

Against Brees, he drops nine here in a Cover 2 Buc while rushing only the two edges. I’m not a huge fan of dropping interior defensive linemen frequently (I am of the edges, especially against Tom Brady), but it’s effective in certain spots, especially in the red zone.

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The last coverage example is a dandy.

There’s no single-high angel on this crucial 3rd-and-6. Instead, Williams throws both safeties in a short robber. This means the 9-route is a worry.

The main reason he rolls with this setup is strictly due to the nature of today’s NFL. Rub and pick routes rule the roost. So what Gregg Williams does here is places both safeties in the robber while tasking them with charging up if a pattern becomes hopelessly open.

It happens and the safety takes charge.

The greatest coaching point of the play is that the corner who found himself picked actually replaces the safety to darted up for his specific responsibility.

It’s a perfect example showcasing how the entire 11-man unit must come to the party with excellent football intelligence.

 

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Easy to look like a genius when you have Myles Garrett dominating every play

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11 hours ago, Philc1 said:

Easy to look like a genius when you have Myles Garrett dominating every play

We need an edge rusher from this free agency group or at the top of the draft.

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35 minutes ago, Jetster said:

We need an edge rusher from this free agency group or at the top of the draft.

Or even both. :-) 

  • Upvote 2

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46 minutes ago, Jetster said:

We need an edge rusher from this free agency group or at the top of the draft.

This is why I advocate OL in FA. 

  • Upvote 1

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47 minutes ago, Jetster said:

We need an edge rusher from this free agency group or at the top of the draft.

Couldn’t agree more

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Just now, varjet said:

This is why I advocate OL in FA. 

I’m fine with drafting Jonah at 3 as long as we sign two legit pass rushers (which ain’t easy)

 

 

Please, no Brandon Grahams.  Been there done that got the T-shirt with DEs who play the run well but don’t pressure the qb

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29 minutes ago, Philc1 said:

I’m fine with drafting Jonah at 3 as long as we sign two legit pass rushers (which ain’t easy)

 

 

Please, no Brandon Grahams.  Been there done that got the T-shirt with DEs who play the run well but don’t pressure the qb

Graham might not get a lot of sacks but he DEFINITELY gets pressure. Very similar to Trey Flowers but Flowers is younger so I would be all for us going after Flowers. A Flowers free agency grab, and an absolutely ridiculous Nick Bosa drop to #3 would be crazy. But, even if we signed Flowers & Gase/Williams/Macc think Josh Allen, or Quinnen Williams are the BPA I'm completely fine with that. 

That 1st rounder has to be an instant starter! 

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8 minutes ago, Jetster said:

Graham might not get a lot of sacks but he DEFINITELY gets pressure. Very similar to Trey Flowers but Flowers is younger so I would be all for us going after Flowers. A Flowers free agency grab, and an absolutely ridiculous Nick Bosa drop to #3 would be crazy. But, even if we signed Flowers & Gase/Williams/Macc think Josh Allen, or Quinnen Williams are the BPA I'm completely fine with that. 

That 1st rounder has to be an instant starter! 

No thanks I’ve had enough with DEs and Olbs who can’t sniff the qb but “set the edge”

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11 minutes ago, Philc1 said:

No thanks I’ve had enough with DEs and Olbs who can’t sniff the qb but “set the edge”

Trey Flowers is ranked in the top 5 free agents available in almost every list. The guy was all over the place in the Super Bowl. 

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58 minutes ago, varjet said:

This is why I advocate OL in FA. 

It's a tough strategy to play out though.  With all the spread/RPO in offenses in college, OL has never been more difficult to evaluate coming out of school.  Thus, whenever a team finds a solid starter, he rarely gets to hit free agency.  All that's left are linemen that are aging or deemed expendable. 

This is why you need to be drafting OL every year in order to develop a pipeline.  They may not be instant starters, but that gives you a pool of guys to develop while you pick up short-term solutions in free agency. 

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How mad scientist Gregg Williams can make impact for four key Jets

 

Matt Bowen remembers the first day of training camp under Gregg Williams -- the first team drill, actually. This was 2004, when Bowen played safety for the Washington Redskins. They were coming off a 5-11 season under the easygoing Steve Spurrier, who was replaced by the legendary Joe Gibbs and his new sheriff on defense, Williams. They started with a 7-on-7 period. Pretty routine. Nice and easy. Pitch and catch.

Except Williams instructed his defense to blitz the quarterback -- all sevendefenders.

"I've never seen Mark Brunell look like that in his life," Bowen recalled with a laugh. "He ended up throwing the ball away. That was the introduction to how we were going to play defense."

Memo to the New York Jets: He's coming for you, this 60-year-old defensive coordinator who flaunts a big résumé, a big ego and big expectations.

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Gregg Williams will likely bring a dramatic change to the Jets' defense. 

Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire

Williams, the first hire by new coach Adam Gase, will provide a culture shock to the Jets, who finished 29th in scoring defense, their worst ranking since 1996. He's a high-intensity coach who will create a level of accountability that didn't exist under the previous coaching staff. Love him or hate him, Williams is a must-watch coach, and it will be fascinating to gauge his impact on the four biggest names on defense: safety Jamal Adams, cornerback Trumaine Johnson, linebacker Darron Lee and defensive tackle Leonard Williams.

The anticipated switch to a 4-3 defense, after 13 years of a 3-4 base, could have a profound effect on Lee and Leonard Williams in particular. Let's take a look, with some help from Bowen, who played seven seasons in the NFL (two under Williams) and now works as an ESPN NFL analyst.

Leonard Williams: In all likelihood, he'd be the 3-technique in the four-man front, meaning he'd line up on the outside shoulder of a guard. The position is designed for the player to get upfield and make plays, as Los Angeles Rams star Aaron Donald did as the 3-technique under Williams in 2015 and 2016. Hall of Famer Warren Sapp made the position famous during his days with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The feeling in the organization is the new scheme can unlock Leonard Williams' potential. Despite solid play over four seasons, he has managed only 17 sacks. An aggressive, one-gap scheme can help with the sack numbers, but it won't be a cure-all because the change isn't as radical as you might think.

In Todd Bowles' hybrid system last season, Williams played 620 of his 822 snaps as an interior lineman -- left/right tackle and nose tackle, per ESPN Stats & Information data. In the season finale against the New England Patriots, he played no fewer than 23 snaps as the 3-technique. All told, he recorded 2.5 sacks as a tackle, 2.5 as an end.

It really comes down to the individual player. For instance: Trevon Coley was the 3-technique for Williams last season with the Cleveland Browns, and he managed only a half-sack.

"I still think you’ll see him rush outside at times," Bowen said of Williams. "I think Gregg will try to use him as an interchangeable piece along the defensive front. That's one of the areas the Jets need to upgrade; they need to add some edge rushers. If you put Leonard as a 3-technique, now imagine if you have a pretty consistent edge rusher outside of him. It's going to create more one-on-ones inside for Leonard Williams."

Lee: He could be the biggest beneficiary of the Gregg Williams scheme. Undersized as an inside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme, which caused him to get swallowed up against north-south running teams, Lee will feel liberated in the new defense. He will have more opportunities to play in space, where he can excel because of his athleticism. You saw glimpses of it last season, especially in pass coverage (three interceptions). Under Williams, he can be a run-and-hit linebacker.

The question is whether he plays the middle (Mike) or weak side (Will). Bowen said Lee might be a better fit in the middle because Williams has been playing more Cover 2 than he did in past years, and Lee "can run the middle of the field in Cover 2 as a middle linebacker," he said. "You might see him doing that more in sub packages. You can also use him as a blitzer from the middle-linebacker position."

Like Leonard Williams, Lee is entering the final year of his rookie contract. (The Jets have yet to exercise their fifth-year option for 2020.) His once-promising 2018 season ended with a four-game substance-abuse suspension, raising questions about his maturity. Williams and Lee were general manager Mike Maccagnan's first two first-round picks, and the organization is entrusting Gregg Williams to maximize their potential before it's too late.

Adams: He should love Williams' coaching style because it mirrors the way he plays: relentless. He's a do-everything player who should be featured in the new system.

"If you watched his film this year, you know he can be one of the top safeties in the NFL," Bowen said. "There’s no question about that. In this scheme, he can do a lot of different things. I think it goes back to his scouting report coming out of LSU. This was a safety who could cover down, who could play over the tight end and who could match up with a running back. Plus, he had the footwork of a corner at times. He could play in the slot. And he finds the ball. He’s around the football. Guys that are around the football, that doesn’t happen by accident."

Williams will love Adams because he's a smart player who never lets up. The man actually tackled people in the Pro Bowl, for crying out loud.

Johnson: He knows Williams better than anybody on defense because he played for him, 2014 to 2016 with the Rams. He made a lot of money in that scheme -- two franchise tags, plus a $34 million guarantee from the Jets. Johnson's play slipped last season, but maybe he can rebound under the fiery Williams, who won't tolerate a lack of focus.

"He didn’t play his best ball last year -- everyone understands that -- but he gets a fresh start," Bowen said. "I think he's the perfect corner if you play Cover 2, in my opinion, because of his frame, his length. He can be a physical player who can jam at the line of scrimmage and sink and get his eyes on the quarterback. But he’ll be asked to play man coverage as well, and he’ll be asked to play man coverage with no help. That’s part of the defense. The skill set is still there. Maybe this is a situation where, working under Gregg and fine-tuning his technique, he can get back to what he was."

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