Rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins sat with the rest of his teammates during Wednesday morning’s team meeting while highlights from New York Jets safety Jamal Adams flashed in front of them. Interim head coach Bill Callahan wanted to show his players how lethal Adams could be to their offense during Haskins' first-career home start.
“Incredibly talented player, by all means, in every realm,” Callahan said of Adams, a Pro Bowler and second-team All-Pro last season. “Not only from a coverage standpoint, but when he pressures, when he pulls the trigger out of nowhere, he can make the adlib play that you don’t see normal safeties make.”
Adams and the rest of the Jets’ defense will be determined to make Haskins uncomfortable and spoil his home debut.
“The Jets are a very good defense, they’re very active,” Haskins said. “Adams makes a lot of plays, and they do a really good job of disguising coverages, being able to do different things out of different looks and having guys do different responsibilities.”
The Jets have one of the most active blitzing defenses in the NFL this year. With defensive coordinator Gregg Williams at the helm, the Jets blitz 39.2% of the time, which is fourth in the league. They also rank in the top 10 in terms of quarterback knockdowns (8th) and knockdown percentage (10th).
Williams’ mantra as a coordinator is bringing consistent pressure. Callahan is very aware of that fact, and he is expecting the same from the Jets on Sunday.
“When you look at Gregg Williams and the trademark of his defense, it’s in his DNA to send more than you have to block, whether it’s a seven-man box, eight-man box -- I think he’d rather prefer a nine-man box, actually,” Callahan said. “That presents quite a challenge for us.”
Adams leads a trio of Jets players who bring the most pressure on blitzes. Adams has blitzed opposing quarterbacks 42 times through nine games -- almost double what linebackers Jordan Jenkins and Neville Hewitt have combined -- and has five sacks to go with two knockdowns and seven pressures.
“He’s a player you have to have full knowledge of where he is,” Callahan said. “You’ve got to be aware of every alignment he gets in, you’ve got to know what he’s doing, the possibilities of where he can come from, the plays he can make.”
Despite the Jets hounding offenses with pressure, quarterbacks have performed well against them, especially in the last three games. During that stretch, the Jets have allowed Gardner Minshew, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Daniel Jones to have an average passer rating of 120.1. What’s more is that the Jets’ defense has performed worse away from MetLife Stadium; they have allowed quarterbacks to post a 105 rating when playing on the road.
Like Haskins, Minshew and Jones are rookies, and they have finished with some of the best passer ratings and quarterback ratings (QBR) against the Jets’ defense. In order to make sure Haskins has a similar performance, the offense wants to make sure he is as comfortable as possible.
“He’s been around the league for a while,” Redskins offensive tackle Morgan Moses said of Williams. “He has his flavors of the week … with certain blitzes that he’ll bring early to see if you can pick it up. It’s for us guys up front, being that we’ve played a lot more football than [Haskins], to help him prepare and see the field as well.”
The best way for the offensive linemen to help Haskins see the field will be to pick up the Jets’ blitzes, regardless of what “flavor” Williams throws at them. The offensive line has played against defenses like the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers that have elite pass rushes, and they have grown used to preparing for challenges up front.
“It’s every week, really,” said offensive guard Ereck Flowers. “We’ve been going against some top defenses from Chicago to Eagles to Patriots, and they’ve all been really good. The coaches do a really good job of preparing us. So it’s really just taking the training into the game.”
It’s also up to Haskins to recognize the variety of blitzes the Jets will bring, but the coaching staff isn’t too concerned with that. Quarterbacks coach Tim Rattay pointed back to Haskins’ work during OTA’s to learn different protections.
“He’s got to understand what the front is and what the look is and get to his protection adjustments,” Rattay said. “We’ll watch the pressures as we do each week and make sure we’re dialed in. If he sticks to his rules that we taught him in OTA’s and just keeps harping on them each week, he’ll be fine.”
Haskins echoed that assurance during his first press conference as the starter Wednesday afternoon, and he seems confident about his home debut regardless of what the Jets decide to throw at him. He has experienced teammates he can rely upon and a coaching staff that has given him the tools to succeed.
The only thing left for him to do is turn that into a win on Sunday.
“I feel like once we’re able to recognize what they do, we’ll be able to execute at a high level,” he said.