Will McDonald IV was labeled an eccentric athlete by Jets head coach Robert Saleh.
He was highly regarded as a potential future difference-maker.
The Jets thought so highly of him that they drafted the Iowa State star with the 15th overall pick in the first round of this spring’s draft, even though they already had a solid defensive line.
But so far, the rookie has barely been on the field.
He played just 13 snaps in the season-opening overtime win over the Bills, and sat out last Sunday’s game against the Cowboys to be replaced by veteran Carl Lawson.
“I didn’t really stumble. I just did what I was told,” McDonald told the Post after Thursday’s practice. “I’m going to take the opportunity when the time comes. … I try not to get upset about things. Things happen and they’re meant to happen.”
Defensive line coach Aaron Whitecotton broke the news to McDonald before last Sunday’s game.
He obviously would have liked to have played, but he did his best to make it a positive.
It gave him a different perspective on the game and an opportunity to get better by watching rather than doing.
“There’s always room to learn, especially when you’re on the sideline,” said the 6-foot-3, 241-pound rookie. “I can see everything.”
Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said there’s nothing the coaching staff feels McDonald is lacking.
He’s just finding his feet at an incredibly deep position in the NFL and still needs some fine-tuning in terms of learning the team’s defensive scheme.
But Ulbrich was impressed by the response McDonald received during his sit-in on Sunday.
“Shoot, watching him today, I was fired up for him because he attacked practice today. I thought he attacked practice yesterday too,” Ulbrich said. “We’re starting to see big improvements in his game, all the intangibles, incredible athleticism, speed, bend, everything. He’s starting to learn our defense and it’s starting to come into play. ”
It was a small setback for McDonald, but he said he won’t let it deter him.
“But I like watching my sons play,” he said. “Eventually I’m going to get time. I’m a rookie, so there’s always room to learn. … I don’t think it’s a bad thing or something that will break me or uplift me. There are only more opportunities to come.”