No Spotlight, No Problem for Rising Star Mario Williams
HOUSTON -- One of the best defensive players in the game lives here.
He isn't on Twitter every day like Shawne Merriman, doesn't play with a star on his helmet like DeMarcus Ware, didn't skip a trip to see the president like James Harrison, and doesn't play in New York like Justin Tuck.
He's Mario Williams, and he is quietly doing his thing for the Houston Texans. Williams is 24 years old and is already setting the standard for defensive ends across the league.
"I really don't worry about that [lack of attention]," Williams told FanHouse as he walked toward Reliant Stadium following Houston's afternoon practice on Friday. "For example, those guys themselves, they are great athletes. They are in a different scheme, a 3-4. It's a big difference. Nine times out of 10, we're going up against tackles, as opposed to guys who go up against running backs and tight ends."
Williams isn't trying to disrespect any of the top players mentioned -- he's just making a point.
He plays in a 4-3 scheme that normally has him rushing off the edge against double-teams, facing big tackles. The Texans liked him to move laterally in the past, but now that might change.
This season, under new defensive coordinator Frank Bush, the Texans will do different things within their scheme. You might see the blitz coming from different directions more regularly than last season, for example. It's a change that should help disguise Houston's rush, and help the Texans improve on their sack totals and number of quarterback pressures.
Last season, the Texans finished 23rd in the NFL in sacks.
"I wouldn't say like we have more freedom, but it's being more aggressive," Williams said. "I know, in the past, we said we're going to be more aggressive, and we still did our lateral stuff, and I definitely said I don't like going left and right. I spoke out about going left and right."
Williams didn't like the read-and-react type way the Texans played sometimes. He wants the team to attack more.
And why wouldn't you want Williams attacking more? He led the Texans with 12 sacks and 25 quarterback pressures in 2009 -- and he was the only Texans defender with double-digit quarterback pressures on the team last year.
That has to change. Williams needs some help.
The Cowboys, who led the league in sacks, had six players hit double digits in QB pressures.
"Yeah, that's the key to it," linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. "Knowing guys' strengths and Frank knows every player's strengths. When he puts everyone in the right positions, there's going to be no excuses for not making plays."
To take pressure off Williams, the Texans added physical players like defensive end Antonio Smith and linebacker Cato June.
If there's thing you notice about the 2009 version of the Texans, it's the the team speed. General manager Rick Smith decided the minute he took over that he wants more quickness on the field -- the faster the players are, the more havoc can be created, which leads to more turnovers being caused.
"We're going to be strong regardless," Williams said regarding the defensive line. "We've had a huge offseason. We've been working together, we've been getting things kind of timed out a little bit, but we've still got a long way to go. But we're definitely going in the right direction."
It's seems amazing that people questioned the Texans back in 2006 when they selected Williams with the No. 1 overall pick of the draft, ahead of Reggie Bush and Vince Young.
When you looked at those two players then, you could see why. But Bush has battled injuries throughout his short carer, and Young is stuck as a backup quarterback.
Williams, meanwhile, has compiled 26 sacks the last two seasons, and in only three short years, he's become the Texans' all-time sack leader with 30 1/2. He also holds the franchise record for sacks in a single-season, with 14 in 2007.
But there is one thing that Bush and Young have over Williams. Playoff checks.
Those two have been the postseason, and it's something that Williams needs, too, in order to push his name on the national stage. The Texans play in a tough AFC South, where the Colts and Titans are expected to reach the playoffs, while the Texans and Jaguars are expected to be just watching again.
"It's going to be tough regardless," Williams said. "No matter what happened last year, we have to cross that line again. It's like saying you're almost there, but you're not there. We have to cross that line and get to the playoffs."