In a lost season, Jets find a cornerstone in Leonard Williams

There is a grand total of one untouchable player on the Jets roster. He’s the foundation, the centerpiece, the nucleus of everything that the Jets hope to be in the coming years.

Leonard Williams is the most important piece to an ever-changing puzzle for a franchise building for tomorrow. The second-year defensive lineman has shown flashes of brilliance in his second season, moments when you mumble this to yourself: How the heck did he slide to the sixth pick in the draft?

He’s the only player that Jets brass is not open to trading.

“He’s at the point where he’s gotten a lot better,” Todd Bowles said in the run-up to his team’s Monday night matchup against the Colts. “He can get so much better. But he’s making a lot of progress. He doesn’t have a ceiling. He doesn’t have a basement either. Right now, he’s steadily ascending.”

This is clear: he can be a beast.

He can be a game-wrecker, a difference maker, a disruptive force that can make quarterbacks jumpy in the pocket. He can be everything the Jets imagined if he continues on this track.

No amount of success will distract him. His wild hair might expand, but his head certainly won’t.

“I’m definitely a player that’s going to critique myself hard,” Williams said. “After a good game, I’m going to see what I did bad. I’m going to see what my flaws are and I’m going to correct those. I’m not going to point out my good plays. I’m going to point out my bad plays. I feel like that’s one thing that’s going to keep me progressing in this league.”

The most frightening part? He’s only 22.

“He’s understanding blocking schemes a little better,” Bowles said. “The game’s slowed down for him. Before he was just running like a bull in a china shop. Now he understands what’s happening to him and he’s adjusting.”

New York Jets DE Leonard Williams celebrates during the Jets Bills game in Buffalo, N.Y. on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016. (Chris Cecere/AP Images for Nike)

Leonard Williams’ hair may be growin, but his head is as level as its ever been.

(Chris Cecere/AP Images for Nike)

“I think it’s just a natural progression,” the coach added. “When you play as a rookie, you learn so much after 16 games coming back the next year. So mentally we expected him to be a little better than he was last year.”

Williams started off on fire with six sacks in the first seven games before some of his numbers leveled off. He’s been held without a sack in the past four games because “people (are) paying more attention to him,” his coach said.

“He’s getting close,” Bowles said. “He’s getting hurries. It’s not (always) going to (result in) sacks.”

Williams has already doubled his rookie sack total of three. He has more sacks this season than defensive linemen Mo Wilkerson (2.5) and Sheldon Richardson (1.5) combined.

“This season I’ve just been feeling a lot more comfortable,” Williams said. “I definitely have progressed as a player with sacks and TFLs (tackles for loss). I know that’s one thing I harped on coming out of my last season: Getting more sacks, TFLs and the stats that people like to see. … With that comfort level that I have now, I’ve been able to go out there and play the way I want to play.”

Williams has been one of the few bright spots in a dark season. He’s held up his end of the bargain. For the Jets’ sake, his teammates better follow moving forward.

“He’s coming along (by) leaps and bounds,” Bowles said.

The glut along the defensive line will likely change this offseason. Richardson has already said that he won’t be surprised if he’s the odd man out. Wilkerson’s hefty new contract signed last offseason will make it a chore moving him.

No matter what happens, one thing is certain: Williams isn’t going anywhere.

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Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News

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