Fletcher Cox won’t be Quinnen Williams’ concern on Sunday.
But Williams has long had his eyes on Cox, the Eagles’ veteran defensive tackle who will be a handful for the Jets’ offensive line when they meet in the trenches at MetLife Stadium.
As Williams continues to establish himself as one of the better defensive tackles in the NFL in his third year with the Jets, bringing his name into discussions of the Pro Bowl and a potential contract extension, he’ll have a chance to share the field Sunday with Cox, the player after whom he has tried to model his game.
“Everything — I try to take everything from his game,” Williams said Friday after practice. “Because he’s big. He is my idol. With coaches and other players, I joke that Aaron Donald was my college comparison. I’m like, ‘I cannot be Aaron Donald.’ Aaron Donald is first of all, 6-1, 285 pounds, quick as lightning, super get-off, amazing pass rush and all-around freak. I’m like, I compare myself to Fletcher Cox. Similar height and weight. Probably the same speed. Fletcher Cox did the same things as I was growing up. [does], trying to imitate the stuff he’s doing coming out of high school and college.”
Williams called the 30-year-old Cox a “mentor.” He got the chance to speak with Cox during the NFL draft process before the Jets selected Williams with the third-overall pick in 2019.
The 6-foot-3, 315-pound Alabama native got a better experience this summer from Cox, who is 6-4 and 310 pounds.
“I got a chance to talk to him about his game and my game, stuff like that,” Williams said of the six-time Pro Bowler. “I had talked to him before that, but talking to him in pads and in his element was like a dope experience.”
Williams’ strong season has continued since that time, with six sacks and 40 tackles. He also recorded six tackles for losses, six tackles for good, and twelve quarterback hits. Pro Football Focus reports that Williams’ sacks place him fourth among defensive tackles (trailing Javon Hargrave, Chris Jones and Jeffery Simmons), while his total pressures of 29 are 12th among interior linemen.
It hasn’t gone unnoticed. In the most recent Pro Bowl voting update, Williams was in 6th place for defensive tackles.
“I think he’s a Pro Bowler, personally,” Jets head coach Robert Saleh said. “He’s a fantastic young man, his work ethic, all of it. His stats are comparable to the top players in this league and he is always on time at work. When he steps on the football he absolutely, whether it’s practice or the game, his effort is as good as anyone and his production is as good as anyone.”
Williams was considered for the Pro Bowl last year but was not selected.
“It’s a huge thing,” Williams said. “It’s a huge accomplishment to even be in that top 10 with people like Aaron Donald, Chris Jones, all those top dope guys.”
Williams said that he didn’t think about the Pro Bowl vote and that he was not eligible for the extension after the season. The 23-year-old could soon be in for a big payday — if the Jets decide to make him their first first-round pick to get an extension since Muhammad Wilkerson in 2016 — but Williams has downplayed it for now, heeding the advice of his old college coach.
“Nah, I definitely haven’t been thinking about that,” Williams said. “All that’s like rat poison, like Coach [Nick]Saban once said. Keep your eyes on what you can control. I can’t control the Pro Bowl votes. I can’t control extension, money and all that. All I can control is helping the team, helping the defense and doing all I can do to win football games.”