The New Orleans Saints will travel to New York City tomorrow afternoon in advance of their 3rd game of the 2019 NFL preseason on Saturday night against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Once that they get there, a former friend-turned-foe will be there to greet them.
That former friend-turned-foe will be none other than former Saints and brand new Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams — a man well-known for his aggressive mindset, and who had the Jets defense go out and figuratively crush Falcons QB Matt Ryan in their 2nd preseason game victory over Atlanta last week.
An inside look at the myth, hyperbole and truth of Jets DC Gregg Williams…
“He’s a take-no-explicit type of guy.”
— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) August 20, 2019
Now the question becomes: will Williams try to do the same thing to Saints 19th-year veteran and future Hall-of-Famer Drew Brees?
Knowing Williams and his past history around the League, that answer is likely “YES.”
The 61-year-old Williams has coached in the NFL for the past three decades, but most fans across the NFL still associate Williams with the infamous “BountyGate” controversy back in 2012. The League and Commissioner Roger Goodell alleged Williams had the Saints defense intentionally try to injure offensive players from other teams by rewarding them with cash incentives or “bounties” to do so.
There are a handful of team executives throughout the NFL that are far less enthusiastic about Williams’ abrasive tactics; the very same tactics that got him banished temporarily from the League and led to the 1-year suspensions of both Saints head coach Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis, and made him a pariah in the city of New Orleans and among fans in the ‘Who Dat Nation’.
— Larry Holder (@LarryHolder) November 26, 2016
But after a recent two-year stint as Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator and interim head coach last season following the firing of former Browns head coach Hue Jackson, Williams is now in the “Big Apple” and overseeing the defense for new Jets head coach Adam Gase — and not surprisingly, the Jets defensive has taken on that same aggressive mindset that he’s established at every coaching stop along the way.
— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) January 15, 2019
One word is most frequently used to describe Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams: Intense.
— AP NFL (@AP_NFL) August 13, 2019
Even though it was only a preseason game and a contest that didn’t count for anything, last week Williams was at it once again, and as noted by SportsNet New York beat writer Ralph Vacchiano, Williams had the “Gang Green” defense turn up the heat on the Falcons’starting QB.
They blitzed Ryan on nearly every pass attempt, sacking him three different times on the 17 times he dropped back to throw the football. Ryan still managed to complete 10 of 14 passes for 118 yards, but make no mistake about it: they had Ryan rattled mightily.
Gregg Williams dialed up a lot of blitzes, unusual for a preseason game. Out of 48 pass plays, he sent more than 4 rushers on 18 plays, per NFL Next Gen Stats. They finished with 17 pressures and five sacks. #Jets
— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) August 16, 2019
Every single Matt Ryan drop back vs the Jets.
Consistent pressure applied.
Did well overall given the pressure he was under. pic.twitter.com/aHbXkbTwQi
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) August 16, 2019
Additionally, out of the 48 total pass plays by the Falcons offense for the course of the game, Williams sent four pass rushers on 18 of those plays, as “Gang Green” finished with a grand total of 17 QB “pressures”, 14 QB “hits”, and 5 sacks overall.
Now with the 40-year old Brees and the Saints 1st team offense coming to town and expected to see their most extensive game action of the entire preseason, they appear to be next ones in the proverbial crosshairs of Williams and the young but very talented and up-and-coming Jets defense.
Vacchiano adds that Williams probably dialed up the blitzes to see how effective his squad is up to this point, with the start of the regular season a little less than two weeks away. And although it’s unlikely that Williams revealed much (if anything) from his legendary “bag of tricks,” it appeared that the majority of the blitzes were fairly simplistic in nature, scheme-wise.
If that’s true, then you can definitely expect that he’ll try to bring that same type of pressure against the Saints on Saturday night.
Undoubtedly, Williams will attempt to throw “everything but the kitchen sink” at the Saints offense, as they try to disrupt the timing and precision of Payton’s offensive scheme, regardless of it being only a preseason game.
Gase told the Jets media recently that he tries to simulate game action on the practice field whenever possible, but he’s never seen it be this effective since Williams has come to New York.
“I haven’t experienced this much variety of things that Gregg does, whether it’s pressure, coverage, types of coverages that he does, the disguises he does,” Gase said.
— New York Post (@nypost) August 12, 2019
“And the guys – we’re not having busts on defense. You don’t see guys just running wide open. They’re executing what he’s asking them to do.”
“There will be minor details that need to get corrected, but I’ve never experienced it where we’re seeing as much as what we do this early. And it’s good for our guys because our guys need to see it all. (During the regular season), every week’s a different deal for us.”
Considering the past history between Williams and the Saints franchise. it’s likely that the two sides will, at the very least, be cordial towards each other before and after the game.
— Saints News Network™ (@SaintsNews) September 11, 2018
But for the 60 minutes worth of game action, things are likely going to be dialed up a notch, with all the intensity of a regular season contest.
For Payton, Brees, and the Saints offense, it will certainly be a true assessment of where things stand for them overall, before the 2019 NFL Season arrives.
Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. Central time, and will be televised locally here in NOLA by WVUE FOX8 New Orleans.
Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium. He is the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius