Mario Williams is looking forward to being unleashed in the Buffalo Bills’ new defensive scheme when the NFL season starts on Sunday.
“I think the biggest thing with this defense is everybody’s going to be able to mix it up a little bit and get after it,” Williams said after Thursday’s practice. “Obviously our mentality is to be aggressive. So I think most of our guys, especially up front, that’s what we want to do. It’s not a hold-back scheme. We’re definitely going to get after it and see what’s going on.”
Exactly how is Williams going to be unleashed when the Bills face the New England Patriots? The big weapon of the Bills’ defense was coy about that subject.
Does he think the Bills’ defense was relatively vanilla in the front seven during preseason?
“Ummm, I don’t know,” Williams said.
What position would he characterize himself as playing?
“Everything, just about everything,” he said.
How would he compare the way he’s being used with the way he was used in the Houston Texans’ 3-4 defensive front in 2011?
“Both defenses have different attack angles and different personnel, the way they match up with teams and defend certain things,” he said. “I can’t really say too much; it’s really tipping too much.”
One thing Williams was definitive about was his health.
“I’m good,” he said. “I’m excited to get back out there and get on the field and get after it.”
Williams said he has had no problems with the sore foot that caused him to miss some practice time early in training camp. Coach Doug Marrone said the coaches’ priority was making sure Williams was ready for Week One. Williams played only 29 plays in preseason.
“We wanted to make sure that whatever soreness he had during training camp, we were able to get him 110 percent healthy for the season,” Marrone said.
“What I’ve seen in practice now, more than I’ve seen during preseason, is a more active player, a player that’s running around, a player that looks to be 110 percent, and that was our goal.”
As a result, expectations are high that Williams can pick up where he left off at the end of last season and be a seasonlong star for new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.
Williams battled a sore wrist that required a bye-week surgery the first half of last season. He had three sacks through eight games. But he finished with a team-high 10.5 sacks. He was stout against the run the second half of the season.
The Bills moved him around a bit as the season went on.
Over the last eight games, Williams played about 15 percent of his snaps on the right side of the defense.
That’s where he’s expected to see much of his time this year, as a stand-up end on the weak side of the offense (away from the tight end).
But who knows for sure until they get on the field? In the spring, Williams said he expected to line up “all over the place.”
The determining factor will be match-ups.
The Bills will move their front seven around more than last year, when they were mostly static, in an attempt to get what they view as the best mismatch.
New Bills edge rusher Jerry Hughes is excited about playing opposite Williams.
“Other than him being 6-7, 300 pounds, I guess what’s impressive is just the way he’s able to move out there athletically,” Hughes said. “For a guy his size and stature to still be able to run plays down on the back side and get after the quarterback with speed and still use his power, it’s a great asset. He’s a physical freak, pretty much.”
Williams, however, knows that talking about how a defense that ranked 31st against the run last year is going to be improved isn’t going to do him much good.
“I found that regardless of what topic we’re discussing, thinking it and doing it are two different things,” he said. “Mentally, last year is last year. No matter what you do prior, it’s what you’ve done today. We’ve got to go out and do it. It’s a new day.”