When the Jaguars selected rookie linebacker Quincy Williams in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, many questioned why a team would select a small-school linebacker that wasn’t heavily scouted — not invited to the combine or senior bowl —, or well-known at all. However, entering the 2019 regular season, Williams showcased his talent to the Jaguars’ coaching staff earning the small-school prospect a shot at a starting role within one of the better defenses in the league.
Entering week five of the regular season Williams had accumulated 28 combined tackles — 18 solo — and a tackle-for-loss. Against the Carolina Panthers in week five, however, the rookie struggled causing him to be subsequently demoted the following week.
Quincy Williams had a couple nice plays (9 tackles, 6 solo). This was his best: pic.twitter.com/3GEK0SxtyD— Demetrius Harvey (@Demetrius82) September 16, 2019
In week seven, the rookie injured his hamstring and he was forced to miss three matchups, and never able to earn his starting spot job back from veteran linebacker Najee Goode. Williams took the demotion as a punishment at first, but he was quickly reminded by his teammates to embrace the opportunity to learn, and grow from his mistakes.
“It sucked at first, because at first I thought it was a punishment type thing,” Williams told Big Cat Country shortly after practice on Thursday. “I talked to a few of the players and they [were] like ‘now is your time to actually take a step back and actually see how the game of football is actually played at a high level.”
Without having played linebacker before — Williams was more of a hybrid safety in college —, learning on the fly was a difficult, but ultimately humbling experience for the Murray State product. Taking a step back from the team was a learning experience for Williams, he said.
“Everybody knows it was my first year playing linebacker they kinda just like ‘here you go, you in, you starting’, so I actually got to take a step back and see how linebacker is played in the NFL so I watched Najee [Goode] and Myles [Jack] so that’s the biggest thing.”
Jaguars coach Doug Marrone and defensive coordinator Todd Wash both indicated this week that Williams would be brought back into the mix this week. While he may not be starting again, there is an opportunity out there for the rookie.
“After the first week when he was sat down, he came and said, ‘Hey, I understand. I’m not out there trying to make plays; I have to do my job.’,” Wash said on Thursday. “And I think Quincy learned that early on. And we’re still going to play all of our linebackers and stuff like we do, but we’re going to give him a little more expanded role to see where he’s at.”
Wash says that Williams has had a good couple of weeks practicing and is expected to play in some capacity with linebackers Najee Goode and Myles Jack moving forward.
Williams learned how to take care of his body while he was away from the field. After dealing with a hamstring injury, it allowed the rookie to sit back and actually appreciate the NFL. On the field he understands what his issues were, and he spoke about them on Thursday.
“On the field, the biggest thing my problem was the run responsibilities,” Williams told members of the media on Thursday. “Actually holding my gap. Where in college you can hold you gap and still try to make a play so its not all about making plays — about holding your gap, so I learned that a lot while I had my time off the field.”
His first opportunity may come this week against the Tennessee Titans and running back Derrick Henry. Williams is very familiar with the star running back after playing him during the team’s week three matchup at TIAA Bank Field. This time, it will be in Nashville.
“The biggest thing is it’s gonna be in his stadium,” Williams said of Henry. “Last year we all [saw] how that happened — so we gonna not let that happen this year.”