Three weeks into the preseason,
Williams’ switch from defensive end, where he had 48 sacks in his first five seasons, has been the biggest story of the Texans’ offseason. No topic has sparked more discussion, debate and, it seems, unrest among fans and media as Houston transitions to a 3-4 under Wade Phillips.
Asked about the hubbub that has continued through two preseason games, Phillips said that Williams is “doing fine.”
“He’s adjusting well,” Phillips said. “He gets better every game. He only played a half. Once he plays a whole game, I think they’ll have problems with him.”
Williams didn’t have a sack against the New Orleans Saints on Saturday night, but Texans head coach Gary Kubiak praised his performance a day later. Phillips did the same on Tuesday.
“When you look at the game, he had three pressures in the game against Drew Brees,” Phillips said. “I mean, you’re not going to sack Drew Brees every play. He had three big pressures against him that (came) in the limited time he played. He’s getting there.”
A two-time Pro Bowler, Williams said Tuesday that he’s feeling more comfortable with his technique, ability to get off the ball and how he sees things on the field. He also feels like he’s becoming more instinctive at the linebacker position.
“This is only the third week that I’ve been standing up in my whole career like I have been,” he said. “I’ve never been up this much… I’ve always been a hand-in-the-dirt guy, so it’s definitely something different. But it’s coming along, and with more repetitions and more game time, I’ll be more comfortable.”
The main adjustment for Williams has been learning how to get off the ball properly from a two-point stance. His learning curve has been accelerated by not having OTAs or mini-camp this offseason.
“It’s difficult because I didn’t know there were so many fundamentals into it,” Williams said. “If you rush from a two-point stance properly without any hesitation on your front foot, that takes away a split-second for getting to the quarterback, and we all know that’s very valuable. I didn’t realize it was going to be that particular, but it really is. Now, only this being my third week, going on my fourth week, it’s definitely a big difference.”
Williams will still get to play in a three-point stance in nickel and dime situations, when he and the Texans’ other outside linebackers will line up with a hand down like defensive ends. He views that as the biggest advantage of his position switch.
“I’ll be able to do the 3-4 and the 4-3, stand-up or down,” Williams said. “I think that’s the biggest thing and that’s really the big reason why I’m excited about doing it, because it’ll make me more versatile and (create) more options.”
Because of his height (6-6), Williams also still has to adjust to bending his waist and knees properly and playing at proper angles. Like everything else, he thinks it will be easier with time.
So do his coaches.
“It is a change, but every step has been positive,” Kubiak said. “What they’re trying to get him to do, it’s a total change in technique in how you play and the scheme is playing and what he’s being asked to do. Mario’s working. Mario hasn’t missed a day, except the day his dad was ill. He’s been working his tail off. He’s very receptive to Wade and (linebackers coach) Reggie’s (Herring) teaching.
"There are a lot of expectations out of him, and that’s OK. That’s a good thing. We’re very pleased with his progress at this point.”