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Friday, May 6, 2011
The rationale for moving Mario Williams

By Paul Kuharsky

Initially, Wade Phillips looked at Mario Williams and saw Bruce Smith.

After looking at Williams more, Phillips now sees DeMarcus Ware.

"A lot of players have gotten a lot of sacks playing defensive end in our defense, but the [weakside] linebacker is the premier guy," Phillips told John McClain. "He's just too talented to not give him the opportunity to be the guy."

Mario Williams
Mario Williams has 48 career sacks in five seasons with the Texans.
Williams ended last season listed at 290 pounds, while Ware was 262. He’d be the biggest linebacker in league history if the Texans took the field now, says McClain, but the plan is for him to be lighter.

According to Phillips, the team made the decision before the draft, not as a result of it. Defensive end J.J. Watt was the pick at No. 11, and linebacker Brooks Reed was the second-round choice. Reed is now expected to compete with Connor Barwin for the strongside linebacker job. Barwin is also converting from defensive end in the old 4-3.

Williams is back studying at NC State, but during the short lockout pause last week he met with Phillips and was sold on the move.

His comments to McClain suggest he’s fired up about the switch.
"I feel great about it. What an opportunity for me.”

"Wade told me he'll put me in the best position to make plays, and the biggest thing that got my attention was when he said, 'Just go.' He wants me to get after the quarterback 90 percent of the time. He said, 'When the ball's snapped, I want you to go, be fast and get the quarterback.'

"When they want me to cover, I'll do it. I don't think that'll happen too much. I don't think you'll see me turning and running and covering somebody man-to-man down the field."

Phillips will work on Williams’ footwork, which he said was not good in his previous work out of a two-point stance.

As I wrote Thursday, I’m skeptical.

But it’s not really a major change when you boil it down. A healthy Williams is a premier pass-rusher. And while Phillips may be changing the shape of things, he wants his best guy in the best position to go get the quarterback.