Buffalo Bills: What to Expect from Mario Williams in Week 1?
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The Bills are poised to reclaim the second-place spot in the AFC East, a position they have not been since the 2007 season when they went 7-9.
It all starts Sunday afternoon against their division-mates the New York Jets.
With all the offseason moves and preseason play, the Bills will enter the game as the stronger team. The Jets have had to deal with unnecessary distractions during the preseason from team brawls to a not-so-captivating quarterback "race."
The Jets offensive line will be seeing former the Houston Texan, Williams, for the first time and will be fortunate to keep him in front of the line of scrimmage on any down.
Super Mario will do big things on Sunday, but just how big can he go?
Williams can come at defenses from many angles
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The Bills' switch to a full time 4-3 defense is going to incredibly benefit Mario Williams' pass-rushing game.
Williams, who played the 2011 season at the outside linebacker position before being injured in Week 6, is going to enjoy the move back to the line in 2012.
Before tearing his pectoral muscle against the Oakland Raiders last season, Williams was becoming comfortable at linebacker in the Texans' new 3-4 alignment. In five games he had already recorded five sacks and one forced fumble, putting him on pace for 16 sacks on the year, which would have been a career-high.
Transitioning back to the defensive line has been no problem this preseason for Williams, who has looked like his old self, blazing past outside tackles with a bevy of physical moves.
Per request to the Bills' staff, Williams will be rushing the passer from the left side of the defensive line this season. He described it as a matter of comfort, and defensive coordinator, Dave Wannstedt, wants nothing more than to have his new star producing at the highest level.
Williams played his first five seasons in Houston from the right defensive end position but will return to left end, where he played in college at NC State.
Bulking up to 300 pounds in the offseason, Williams will dominate from the left edge with long arms, big hands and pure athleticism.
The Jets' fourth-year right tackle Austin Howard will be the primary road block against Williams and will certainly have his hands full. Expect many double-team blocks along with veteran right guard Brandon Moore.
If Wannstedt is feeling crafty, he could swap Williams to the right side or even to outside linebacker at any point simply to keep the offensive line guessing.
Sacks on Sacks on Sacks
Williams should attain double-digit sack totals in 2012
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Rex Ryan has stated that Sanchez is the undisputed starter and that Tebow will be worked in on some wildcat packages. However, with Williams coming in from the left side and former New England Patriot Mark Anderson rushing from the right, Sanchez should not be able to get comfortable in the pocket whatsoever.
Williams has been a sack machine in the past. He has accumulated 53 sacks in his six years in the league so far, including two seasons (2007 and 2008) with double-digit sack totals.
Anderson, a speed rusher who spent a successful season in New England last year, is also a dangerous threat. He recorded 10 sacks in 2011, his highest total since his rookie season when he recorded 12.
In his last full year, Williams recorded 8.5 sacks for the Texans but will strive for the sack numbers he recorded in his sophomore and junior seasons of 14 and 12.
And the Jets offense, you ask?
They have been abysmal in the preseason. The offensive line allowed 22 sacks in their four preseason games: five to the Cincinnati Bengals, seven to the New York Giants, four to the Carolina Panthers and six to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Their offense finally recorded their first and only touchdown of the preseason in the fourth game, but it didn't come from either Sanchez or Tebow. It came from third-stringer Greg McElroy.
Envision Williams taking down Sanchez at least a couple of times because it will likely be a reality. And if Tebow tries to scramble to Williams' side of the field, he should easily break off the line and crunch the former Gator into the ground.
Despite his size, Williams is very quick-footed
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To be an elite pass-rusher, one has to explode off the line.
Williams does this with superior technique and finesse.
His 4.66 40-yard dash time as a rookie in 2006 helped secure him as the top overall pick in the draft. Listed at 6'6'' and 292 pounds, Williams would be considered large in a 3-4 alignment where defensive ends need to be bigger to handle the one-on-one matchups with offensive linemen.
Nonetheless, Super Mario will be a nightmare for the Jets offensive line in Week 1 as he fights his way past defenders before they can crouch.
At the start of training camp, Bills' starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick described the freakish nature of Williams' play. "He looks like a Madden character you create when you sit there and up-up the strength, and the guy keeps growing. And then he’s the fastest guy on the field, too."
Williams may not be the fastest, but he is certainly quick.
Bucky Brooks of NFL.com gives a more analytical breakdown of Williams' skill set:
"Williams also displays cat-like quickness and athleticism, blowing past blockers on speed rushes. His ability to bend the corner following his third step is unusual for a bigger man; his extraordinary balance and body control allow him to routinely execute the maneuver."
Williams is one of the elite pass-rushers in the game and gives the Bills a dynamic force of speed and power.
Williams' leadership ability is a clear advantage
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Williams is not the most veteran player on the Bills defense, not even on the Bills defensive line, but he will lead by example in Week 1.
With six years of experience under his belt, Williams is a seasoned veteran in the prime of his career. At just 27 years old, the Bills were confident enough to sign him to a six-year deal.
A determined and intense work ethic is one of the reasons Williams has become such a star in the NFL. This work ethic also rubs off on his teammates, helping them train and condition to a higher level.
Head coach Chan Gailey noticed this right away when organized team activities began in June:
"His work ethic has been outstanding. He comes to work every day whether it’s just lifting weights or running, whether it’s practicing out here. He’s done a good job not only fitting in but taking a little bit of a leadership role. I think we’re going to be a little fortunate in that we have quite a few guys who have leadership ability."
Williams has produced on and off the field in the preseason and is prepared for an All-Pro-caliber year.
Week 1 against the Jets should start everything off on the right foot.