Normally, when the New York Giants and the New York Jets have their rare cross-town regular season meeting, the expectation is for it to be a hard-fought contest with bragging rights and civic pride on the line. This year, however, that meeting is being billed as more of a slapfight.
As the hosts of Week 10’s meeting in the Meadowlands, the Jets limp in with a 1-7 record, with their latest loss to the previously-winless Miami Dolphins being their very ugliest. The Giants, meanwhile, are only marginally better at 2-7. In the pits of a five-game losing streak, Pat Shurmur‘s Giants are extremely young, extremely banged up, and actively handicapped by their inexperience. Adam Gase‘s Jets have a second-year quarterback regressing at an alarming rate, stars angered by the actions of the team near the NFL Trade Deadline, and seem one loss away from the nadir of a season that doesn’t seem to have any.
But in the past 10 days, Week 10’s game has taken on a completely new element: The Monday prior to the Trade Deadline, the Jets shipped former USC star and first-round defensive lineman Leonard Williams to the Giants in the very first trade between the two teams.
The opportunity for a “revenge game” for Williams is almost immediate, and quite the uncommon one: As out-of-division opponents, the Giants and Jets only play each other in the regular season every couple of years. But despite the circumstances of Week 10’s meeting, and his opponent being the team that sent him to the other side of town, Williams stated Thursday in the locker room that he isn’t necessarily more ginned up to play than usual.
“It’s no extra motivation than last week,” said Williams. “I’m still with this team, I still want to win every game like I would every week. The motivation level is still the same.”
In his Giants debut Monday night against the Dallas Cowboys, Williams was able to help somewhat with a defensive line that has struggled dearly in rushing the passer: Williams had three tackles on the night, while also producing a quarterback hit and generating pressure. However, he did not record a sack – An ongoing issue, as his lack of sack numbers with the Jets were among the factors that made him expendable.
But entering his second game with Big Blue, Williams has some very specific advantages over Gang Green: He is familiar with the Jets from top to bottom, including the circumstances of their struggling offensive line. That sort of inside knowledge could help Williams make his first major impact for the Giants, as could his increased familiarity and comfort since his arrival last week.
“I’ve definitely felt a lot fresher and faster and more comfortable with (the defense) this week than last week,” said Williams. “Last week, not only was I learning a new defense, but I was also adjusting to new teammates, new coaches, a new environment, all the trade stuff happening. Even though I didn’t have to move far, it was still an adjustment. Whereas this week I kind of feel more comfortable. The trade has already happened, and now I’m just moving forward.”