With training camp now under way, Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley — who landed with the team on a five-year, $85 million free-agent contract this offseason — tackles some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.
Q: What are your personal goals this season?
A: Get this defense to be No. 1 defense in the league. Make sure I’m available every week. My ultimate goal as a defensive player, get Defensive Player of the Year, Pro Bowls … but as long as our defense is doing what we have to do every week, we get to the playoffs, win our division, get to the conference [championship], whatnot, then on from there (smile).
Q: Why can this be a No. 1 defense?
A: Well it starts with great coaching, and that’s definitely what we have with Coach Gregg [Williams, defensive coordinator]. He has a lot of guys on staff that he’s been with that’s been to the Super Bowl then won it. We got a bunch of young guys and guys that’s been on this team and new guys that came in that’s hungry to win, that hasn’t won in a while. So when you get that combination, and you get guys that’s ready to compete on defense and as a team, you have that formula, you just gotta make sure you put it together.
Q: So you think it can be a No. 1 defense?
A: Oh, for sure.
Q: You don’t have an elite pass rusher.
A: You don’t have to, as long as you got guys getting pressure, then that’s what we’re gonna do. Might not have a No. 1 pass rusher right now, but as the season goes on, you never know what can happen.
Q: What will the on-field personality of your defense be?
A: Our mentality is to be the toughest, the smartest and the most conditioned team in the league, every time we play.
Q: Do you want this to be a defense that’s feared?
A: Yeah, as a linebacker, as a defensive player, you always want to be that guy like, “Oh, hey, look out for that guy.” ’Cause when you get an offensive player with their head on a swivel, that’s when you get turnovers, that’s when you get tipped balls and quarterbacks throwing the ball away, getting sacks like that.
Q: Is this a playoff team?
A: I think so. We definitely feel like we have the ability to, but it’s easier said than done.
Q: Is there a sense of pride being the highest-paid inside linebacker in the league at the time, and are you worth the money?
A: It’s a sense of pride. Every year it’s gonna be that next guy. And I did the right things and put myself in the right situations where this year I’m that guy to set the new standard for the linebackers. Now these new guys coming out of college, now they’re looking at me like, “Hey, I’m trying to ball and do what I can my four, five years so I can get that kind of money.” So you hold yourself to that standard, and you definitely think you’re worth that money. Sometimes you gotta go to a new chapter to get it, but you know, the NFL’s a business, you learn that.
Q: Do you embrace being the quarterback of the defense, or is that more pressure?
A: I don’t think it’s pressure when you know what you’re doing. It comes with the position. It’s the attitude you take, it’s the discipline you gotta have, and you gotta be grateful for it. You got 11 guys, 15, 20-plus guys on the sideline and a bunch of coaches believing that you could do your job on top of telling everybody else what to do.
Q: Describe Gregg Williams.
A: Fierce competitor. His attitude and his mental toughness towards the game and the way he carries himself makes us want to match his intensity on the field and do better. He’s gonna bark at ya, say what he’s gotta say, but at the end of the day, he’s there for you all the way and he wants you to be great.
Q: What’s he like in the meeting rooms?
A: Same way he is on the field (chuckle). No different. He’ll joke a little bit more. He says he’s more calm during gameday, so we’ll see about that.
Q: Coach Adam Gase.
A: He’s a competitor, too. He’s always trying to one-up the defense, which brings it all to the football field. Like [Friday], he’s trying to throw all the deep balls ’cause we whipped their butts [Thursday]. Once we get that competitiveness going, obviously keeping guys safe, and we get each other better, then that’s when we can start clicking as a unit.
Q: Sam Darnold.
A: I won’t say he’s a quiet guy, but he’s very calm I would say, on the field.
Q: What about physically?
A: It’s all there … getting out of the pocket, making plays, throwing off his back foot when he has to and still zipping the ball 40, 50 yards down the field. The arm talent’s definitely there.
Q: When you played against Le’Veon Bell, what’s the one move he made that stands out in your mind?
A: He made it [Friday], just his little checkdown. He’ll fake like he’s going one way, stick his foot in the ground, go the opposite way. With Big Ben [Roethlisberger], he was known for like kind of standing in the pocket whether you get a sack or not, just wait on that last second to throw the ball, and he’ll turn a quick checkdown [to Bell] into 20, 30 yards and sometimes touchdowns. I told our linebacker coach, “He did the old Steelers move on me.” But it’s good to see it, ’cause it helps you out ’cause when you’re tired, first thing you do is want to reach and get your eyes on the quarterback, so to have a great talent like that gets you better.
Q: He caught 85 passes as a Steeler two years ago. Can he do that here?
A: For sure. You don’t lead the league with scrimmage yards for running backs just by running the ball.
Q: Offensive guard Kelechi Osemele.
A: Powerful. Me and him being teammates with the Ravens, playing against him, he’s just a big, strong guy, very talented, very emotional when it comes to winning and doing the right things. So he’s definitely gonna be a great leader for the offense and offensive line.
Q: Rookie defensive end Quinnen Williams.
A: You can definitely see the explosiveness and his ability to learn quick.
Q: How did your nickname Half Man Half Amazing start?
A: [Former Ravens teammate Elvis] Dumervil actually started that my sophomore year . Like, “You gotta brand yourself, that’s how you get your name out there.”
Q: What style of linebacker would you say you are?
A: I would say I’m a four-down linebacker. I can play the pass coverage, gotta play the run, give the calls in, run sideline-to-sideline, so that’s what I always pride myself on.
Q: What was it like meeting Ray Lewis for the first time?
A: The first time I met him, it was my senior year at Alabama , he came and spoke to the team. That was like ‘Oh snap’, that’s Ray Lewis saying stuff he preached before I met him. Your work ethic, he always talked about keeping your core strong. Just his leadership and the things you do off the field are gonna affect what you do on the field.
Q: How would you say his leadership style differs from your leadership style?
A: (Smile) Oh, that’s easy. He talks more. Some guys just naturally have that talking ability. You can see that in a Jamal Adams. In rare occasions, you got guys that can back it up on the field.
Q: Describe Ray Lewis’ on-field mentality.
A: Easy word for it. As football players say, he’s just a dawg on the field. Grown men actually fear him when he was coming to hit you. And he’ll let you know it, too. You can watch all the “Mic’d Up” episodes, see all his films, all that stuff. He mentally prepares himself so much where even if he is out of position, his natural instinct will put him right back in position.
Q: What is your on-field mentality?
A: I would go with a quiet assassin, and if I do get to talking, it’s definitely gonna be a fun game. I definitely love the contact, I love making big plays, but I’m all about making sure my defense is on the right page doing the right things.
Q: A silent assassin in what way?
A: Usually when I make my plays, I don’t do too much celebrating, maybe a hand clap, a little flex here and there but sometimes I do talk a little bit, mainly because somebody else talking back. I have my moments when I do a little trash talking.
Q: How come you’re so quiet off the field?
A: I’m not quiet with my friends (laugh). I’m more of an observer before I talk or before I kind of open myself up to people. I don’t know, I guess I get it from my mom a little bit, but whenever I’m around family and friends, I’m more open. When I’m with my friends, I’m a whole different person.
Q: I’m assuming you got into some trash talking with Le’Veon over the years.
A: Not too much. He don’t talk too much on the field. He might celebrate a little bit, the Steelers, they had their celebrations every week, but at the end of the day, man, you don’t hear too much from him.
Q: How will Rob Gronkowski’s retirement affect Tom Brady and the Patriots?
A: I don’t think it’ll affect too much. They’ve played without him before, with his injuries. They won when he wasn’t there, so they’ll find a way to get the job done, I know that.
Q: Is it realistic for you to win the division?
A: Yeah. Every year that’s the standard.
Q: Why is it realistic for this team to knock off the Patriots?
A: If you want to win, you gotta beat the No. 1 team, and right now, they’re the No. 1 team on paper.
Q: Is there an aura, a mystique about the Patriots?
A: I guess some guys might think so, I don’t. If you want to be the No. 1 team in the division, you shouldn’t be thinking that way.
Q: How much longer do you think Brady will play?
A: That’s a great question. Every year they say he’s gonna retire, he comes out and gets the job done. I let that go like a couple of years ago. He’s gonna play until he can’t play no more is my guess.
Q: Are you going to play until you’re 42?
A: At this position, probably not (laugh).
Q: What were your emotions when you watched Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier go down with a spinal contusion in 2017?
A: At first, like when I saw the hit, and I saw the replay, it didn’t really look as bad as it was, ’cause he was kind of moving his legs a little bit and you kind of saw him like reach for his back. But when they said he was like paralyzed, it was crazy, ’cause we came out together, they were comparing us, we trained together down in Bradenton [Fla.], we did all our combine together. We played for rival teams. We were kind of being compared every which way. He’s a good friend, my parents and his parents are real close. It was tough to see one of your friends and brothers go down like that.
Q: Are you still in touch with him?
A: Me and him still talk every now and then.
Q: How’s he doing?
A: He’s doing well. Every time I see him, see the videos, he said he’s gonna be back. You hope he can, but just him taking the process where he was and where he is now is awesome.
Q: What was it like visiting Ground Zero before the 2014 NFL draft?
A: It was like spine-chilling. When it happened, you always hear about it, then when you’re actually there, it’s like a whole different experience. It’s still crazy to think that that happened. It was so long ago, you kind of get caught up in your own life, then when you go memorials like that, it kind of puts you back in perspective. You gotta think about how grateful and how lucky you are to still be here.
Q: Landon Collins as a teammate at Alabama.
A: When I was with him, he was still young, so he was definitely making plays on special teams. He’s just a playmaker, always around the ball, and you could see that when he was with the Giants, and you’re definitely gonna see it now with the Redskins.
Q: Your Alabama team played against Odell Beckham Jr.’s LSU team in college.
A: He was one of the guys that can take a slant to the end zone, just like you see now. Special teams too, punt return, kick return, the guy’s like always making electric plays. That’s a guy you always want to try to go to. You get him going, the whole team’s going.
Q: Who is one running back in NFL history you would have liked to face in the open field?
A: I feel like the hardest guy to tackle is Barry Sanders. So if I could tackle him in the open field, that’s an accomplishment (laugh).
Q: Who is one linebacker other than Ray Lewis whose brain you would have loved to pick?
A: [Dick] Butkus. He kind of set the time for how linebackers should play. I’m pretty sure a lot of players in the ’90s would say they probably watched his film and watched him play. And obviously I won the Butkus Award [for most outstanding college linebacker in 2013], so why not try to pick his brain, see the things that he saw and see his mentality, ’cause even though Ray Lewis is the GOAT of my time, football was a lot harder, a lot different back when [Butkus] was playing.
Q: Describe your interception of Baker Mayfield that got the Ravens the division title. Highlight of your career?
A: Right now that’s No. 1. Past two years I was right there to stop the play, against the Steelers with Antonio [Brown] reaching in, I bounced right off the tackle. … Next year, I dropped 20 yards back for Cover 2, I’m two yards short on tipping the ball to win the game on fourth-and-12 … finally got that break … do it at home. It was a great feeling.
Q: Describe your college coach, Nick Saban.
A: I always remember my freshman year, we were playing against Duke. I had a coverage on a running back in Cover 1 and I went and rushed and let him get out and they got a first down on like third-and-5. In my head, I’m like, “All right, I just gave up that one play,” and he like ripped me for it. When we got in practice.
Q: What was your single best Alabama moment?
A: 2012 SEC Championship game [32-28 win over Georgia], one and only SEC Championship ring, I got the last tip to end the game.
Q: How about winning the national championship, beating Notre Dame 42-14 in the BCS title game?
A: Every time I say I look back at it now, I wish I would have enjoyed it more.
Q: How good of a pro do you think Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa be?
A: I think he’ll be great, the way he can make moves with his feet and his vision, the way he’s able to read his progression as a quarterback, and I think that’s big for a young quarterback in the league.
Q: Your son Carnell is 4.
A: I love being around him. He kind of reminds me of myself sometimes, but other times, I’m like, “I don’t know who you get all this energy from ’cause you just be all over the place.” He’s very active, he loves to try to do things on his own. I just love watching him grow up.
Q: Did fatherhood change you?
A: With me, I’m not a big baby talk guy. So when he was a little toddler, when he was crying. I just want to know what’s wrong, like, “Tell me what’s wrong so I can figure it out.” Now that he’s talking, his emotions and his personality are starting to show, you kind of see him grow into a little person.
Q: Three dinner guests?
A: Barack Obama, both my great grandads.
Q: Favorite movies?
A: “Sandlot,” “The Mighty Ducks,” “Space Jam.”
Q: Favorite actor?
A: Denzel Washington.
Q: Favorite actress?
A: Halle Berry.
Q: Favorite entertainer?
A: Martin Lawrence.
Q: Favorite meal?
A: I was a big Sloppy Joe fan growing up. Sloppy Joe and Hamburger Helper. When we had that for dinner, it was a good night (chuckle).
Q: What are your favorite New York City things?
A: I’ve seen the Statue of Liberty like driving by, so that’s the closest I got to it (Chuckle). It’s a busy city. I definitely witnessed the tunnel traffic. I was in there for like two hours one time, so I just started doing the New Jersey transit in the city so that’s a new tool I found.
Q: Is this an under-the-radar team?
A: I believe so. Just with the recent history of the Jets, people are gonna under-look what we have in general just ’cause we’re the Jets. You look at the Browns, who woulda thought they’d be where they are now just ’cause they were the Browns. But I know, being in that division for five years, when we played ’em, they didn’t play like the Browns. Whoever just wants to under-look is, people do that, but this is a different team.
Q: What is your message for Jets fans?
A: New year, new attitude, new mindset. I’m sure there’s loyal Jets fans that come in thinking like, “All right, let’s just have a great time and enjoy the moment.” But no, now it’s time to have a winning mindset, ’cause that’s definitely what we’re coming on the field every day to practice. So we’re gonna want the fans to come out, bring that same energy, that same intensity that we’re gonna bring on the field, ‘cause our mentality as far as the offense, put up a lot of points, put on a show on the defense and try to shut as many teams as we can out.