When the season ended, New York Jets safety Jamal Adams stood in front of his locker and shared his unvarnished take on why his team finished 4-12. He said they "need more players and we need more dogs," a comment that didn't sit well with some teammates and drew the attention of management and ownership.
Maybe the star safety's words resonated. Less than three weeks later, the Jets are adding some bite to their defense. They're close to finalizing a deal with former Cleveland Browns interim head coach Gregg Williams, a Dawg Pound castoff who will bring the tenacity that Adams covets.
Expect an instant attitude change on defense. The bombastic Williams, 60, preaches a play-on-the-edge mentality, and he does it with an in-your-face style that will motivate some and chafe others. He's a walking F-bomb (did you see the "Hard Knocks" series last summer?) who will raise the swaggerlicious level on the Jets' defense, who did more hiding than seeking last season.
To paraphrase Adams, Williams is the coaching version of an alpha dog.
This is a bold hire for new coach Adam Gase, who indicated Monday that he needed a "head coach" for the defense because of his heavy involvement on the offensive side of the ball. In Williams, he landed a guy with more head-coaching offers than any coach over the past decade. Just ask him.
It's bold because Gase never has worked with Williams, who has the kind of big personality that could threaten an insecure head coach. Instead of hiring one of his coaching friends, Gase went for the best coach available, so give him credit for that. It'll be a fascinating marriage because we're talking about two headstrong coaches. Clearly, Williams still believes he can be a head coach -- he was 5-3 after replacing Hue Jackson in Cleveland -- so it'll be interesting to see how he adjusts to a secondary role under Gase, 20 years his junior.
If they can co-exist, this will be a good move for the Jets, who need an attitude adjustment after allowing 441 points, the second-most in franchise history.
Williams prefers an attacking 4-3 scheme, although he probably won't call it that. He will call it a "Jets defense," saying he will tailor his scheme around the personnel. If he does install a 4-3 base, it will be a radical change for the Jets, who haven't been a 4-3 team since Herm Edwards' final season in 2005. Todd Bowles ran a hybrid defense, mixing 3-4 and 4-3 fronts, but he preferred 3-4-type players -- 300-pound linemen and outside linebackers with pass-rushing skills. It was a power scheme. Now they could be switching to a speed scheme.
The 4-3 requires speed at linebacker, plus freakishly athletic defensive ends who can rush upfield and play the run. This will be a problem for the Jets, who don't have anyone who fits that profile. Outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins (6-foot-3, 259 pounds) could possibly become a defensive end, a position he played in college. With the third pick in the draft, they will have their choice of quality defensive ends.
The big winners in a 4-3 would be Adams, who would continue as a havoc-wreaking box safety; Darron Lee, who is miscast as a 3-4 inside linebacker; and Leonard Williams, who would get favorable matchups as a 4-3 tackle. The losers in a scheme change would be free agent Henry Anderson, who had a career year in Bowles' scheme, and Avery Williamson, who doesn't have the speed to be a "Mike" linebacker in a 4-3.
It'll be up to general manager Mike Maccagnan to find the right players for the scheme, which can be tricky. He doesn't see it as a problem, saying, "I think we have enough pieces that are interchangeable. I think we have some pieces in place that could fit different schemes."
Funny thing about Williams is, his Cleveland defense last season was in the same ballpark as that of the Jets -- and he had two Pro Bowl players in defensive end Myles Garrett and cornerback Denzel Ward. The Browns and Jets were close in most of the major statistical categories, and they were tied in accepted penalties (45). In the final five minutes of the fourth quarter, the Browns allowed 56 points, slightly better than the Jets (67), who were known for their late-game implosions.
We could crunch numbers all day, but the bottom line is this: Williams will make the Jets better on defense. He will give them an identity. In Gase and Williams, they have their most experienced head coach-top coordinator tandem in several years.