When the Buffalo Bills handed Mario Williams a six-year, $96 million contract, which included $50 million guaranteed, Bills fans had visions of Williams laying waste to offensive lines and racking up quarterback sacks like coins in Temple Run.
One month into the season, the Bills and their fans have been treated to little to no production from their prized free-agent acquisition and instead have been served up a steady diet of excuses.
After being a complete non-factor against the New York Jets and their unheralded right tackle Austin Howard, Williams complained that the replacement officials were to blame.
Said Williams, via ESPNNewYork.com:
Pass blocking doesn't consist of illegal hands to the face just about every play, which, when somebody tells you that, and you're five yards away from it, and you walk away like you don't see him telling you you're getting punched in the face every time, then that dictates somebody like myself having to take care of that on my own.
Why, yes. It WOULD dictate that you should take care of it on your own, Mario. But here's the problem:
No, instead of taking matters into his own hands when it became apparent that a hands-to-the-face penalty was not forthcoming (and I've watched the broadcast and coaches' film of the game again and found maybe a handful of plays where Williams could have a legit gripe), Williams pulled a complete disappearing act.
Bills fans are patient people. (Stop laughing Jets fans...) They understood. It was one game; it was Week 1. There was certainly going to be an adjustment period from playing outside linebacker in the Houston Texans' 3-4 defense back into the 4-3 defensive end role Williams played when he first came into the NFL.
Over the course of the next three games, however, there was little to no improvement on the field when it came to doing the thing he was given all that money to do—namely, get after the quarterback.
In Week 2's matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs, there were promising signs. Williams actually hurried the quarterback a few times, though he failed to bring Matt Cassell down.
Fine, there was at least some progress being made. He was around the quarterback. It was only a matter of time before he started getting home. As pass-rushers are fond of saying, sacks tend to come in bunches, and it felt like Williams was close.
Sure enough, Williams recorded his first sack as a Bill the following week against the Cleveland Browns when he got around the edge on a play-action pass. He ended up credited with another half-sack, but overall, the rest of his game was less than inspiring.
The same continued last week against the New England Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady. Williams can thank Brady for his huge offseason payday, because it is Brady's presence that partly drove the Bills' thinking when they decided to pursue the prized free agent.
Getting to Brady with only four rushers, being able to drop your full complement of linebackers and secondary into coverage is the surest way to beat the Patriots, and the Bills thought Williams would be a main component in their doing so.
Unfortunately, rather than Williams living in the Patriots backfield, the former first overall pick spent the Patriots game playing patty-cake with right tackle Sebastian Vollmer.
So, with the regular referees back in place, what was Williams' excuse this time?
It's just a little deal going on, but we've already mentioned that before. It's just lingering a little longer than I expected and I just (need to) get back out there and try to deal with it and play better with it.
I'm a hands-on player and it's all about power in my game. It's just been a little odd having a little nick or whatever and not being able to use it to the full extent, but you know, you gotta play. When you're out there on Sunday, you gotta play regardless of what's going on.
While what he's saying is true—he has always been a power player whose bull rush has traditionally collapsed pockets and made life miserable for quarterbacks—there has been no trace of that player in 2012.
Now, maybe he is dealing with a legitimate injury—but if it is indeed legit, why hasn't it appeared on the official injury report even one time?
The thing is, if Williams wasn't getting to the quarterback but was still collapsing the pocket, his disappearing act wouldn't be so egregious. But the fact that teams don't have to account for him whatsoever means they are able to just leave their right tackle out on an island and forget about him, without even thinking about needing to give him help, which allows offenses to block up the Bills' pass rush rather easily.
The season is a quarter over. The Bills need the guy they paid big money to be their pass-rushing savior to start showing up on the field.
Right now, they're paying millions of dollars to Mario Williams for him to make excuses after the game and for the pleasure of his company.
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