Reggie Herring wants you to calm down.
Take a deep breath. Relax. Cool your jets. Pump your brakes.
The Texans' linebackers coach has seen the rampant speculation and debate that followed the news that Mario Williams will move to weak outside linebacker in Wade Phillips' 3-4. And he would like to set the record straight once and for all.
"There's been a lot of what I would say a lot of overreaction as to us moving him out there," Herring said last week in his office at Reliant Stadium. "There's a lot of anxiety built up for no reason. At the end of the day, over half the game, our outside 'backers are down in our sub package rushing outside, which is what he did anyway and has done in college."
In other words, Williams will be down in a three-point stance on the line of scrimmage in nickel situations. On the edge of a four-man line. Just like he was in the 4-3 that the Texans ran from 2006-10.
"And the other half of the (time), he will just be in a two-point (stance) outside rushing from an outside position, and very, very seldomly dropping," Herring said. "We're different in structure from most 3-4 teams, and I think everybody breaks out the 3-4 manual and kind of broad brushes just what we're doing with him, and they don't really understand our 3-4 defense.
"Our 3-4 defense is we determine who rushes on every snap, not the formation. Nobody can dictate by formation who rushes or drops by motioning the tight end over and creating a strong set to the weakside. We say who's going to rush, and they rush. And at the end of the day, regardless of what formation it is, we'll dictate how many times Mario rushes and drops. So people can forget about that."
In base packages on first and second downs, when Williams is in a two-point stance, he'll line up wider than he did in the 4-3.
"He'll be rushing from a two-point (stance) from basically a two-yard, yard-and-a-half alignment outside the tackle on the weakside – more so than he was in a 4-3, where they could put a tight end to his side and he could end up being a six-technique rushing from inside or head-up on the tight end, which puts him in a lot harder predicament rushing the passer than it would in a two-point two yards outside the tackle," Herring said. "So there's a lot of pluses more so the other way than kind of the panic that people are taking, (like), 'How could you move that big guy out there?'"
Herring said that it will be a process to work on Williams' footwork from a stand-up position, but he and Phillips think Williams will get comfortable with it quickly. And Herring is not concerned with how the 6-6, 290-pound Williams will fare with dropping into coverage, because it simply won't happen very often. And when it does, it won't be a difficult task.
"People are saying, basically, 'How can you tell us that he's only going to (drop) three times a game, maybe?'" Herring said. "Well, because we dictate that. We do have the capability of dropping him. What he does is a very easy drop.
"You hear guys get on TV and explain how, 'Well, when I was in the 3-4, we might be dropping on wideouts and all these multiple looks and it's so hard.' That's not the case in our system. When we ask the Will linebacker to drop – the proof's in the pudding at Dallas. Alls you've got to do is get the film, number one, and look at it and see how many times DeMarcus Ware dropped in Dallas, and they also can call him personally and ask him. Everybody on that team's begging to play the Will 'backer position because you should be a double-digit producer, sacker, if you're good at your trade, which we think Mario is."
Ware had 60.5 sacks under Phillips and Herring from 2007-10, more than any player in the league in those four seasons. He led the league in sacks in two of the last three years. Williams has 43.5 sacks since 2007, which ranks sixth in the NFL.
Ware rarely dropped into coverage from the Will position with the Cowboys. That's exactly how the Texans will use Williams.
"Having said that, the drops are very simple," Herring said. "We never ask him to do anything but drop a curl drop weak to a number one receiver, which is a 10-12 yard drop, which if he played basketball when he was in little league, I think he can open his hips and drop a little 12-yard curl drop and do it three, four times a game, really, at max."
Because Phillips' 3-4 is different than most 3-4s, Williams' role on each down will not be affected by what an offense does before the snap.
"If they were to motion a tight end to his side, well, guess what?" Herring said. "He widens outside more, outside the tight end, and rushes the passer.
"So, I'm real excited about it. I've watched him over the past couple years on film. I actually coached him in college at N.C. State (in 2004). I know what he's capable of, and regardless of what people think and all the preconceived ideas, we're expecting a huge year out of him."
Herring said that the Texans expect both of their outside linebackers (Will and Sam) to contend for the league lead in sacks. Phillips has had players such as Shawne Merriman in San Diego lead the league from the strongside, which is where Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed will play in 2011.
"We're very excited about Mario playing Will, and we think if you understand exactly what we're doing with him, it really should help Mario," Herring said. "It should revive his career. It should rejuvenate his excitement about being a Houston Texan. The challenge is on us and him because we expect, and he's got to expect to be a double-digit sack guy, as well as the other position at Sam. We'll see what happens, but we're really excited about the opportunity."