Print and Go Back ESPN.com: AFC South [Print without images]

Monday, October 10, 2011
What can the Texans be without Williams?

By Paul Kuharsky

The Houston Texans have made great strides defensively under coordinator Wade Phillips. But take away star linebacker Mario Williams and who knows what they will be.

Williams suffered a torn pectoral muscle in Sunday’s loss to Oakland. He will have surgery to repair it and be placed on injured reserve, Gary Kubiak said at his Monday news conference.

Suddenly, offenses do not have to account for him shifting to the side of the formation where there is not a tight end to maximize his chances for sacks and quarterback hits.

Rookie second-rounder Brooks Reed is a promising player, but even if he’s great in Williams’ spot, there will be a drop-off.

The attention that typically goes to Williams can now be distributed in ways that could help slow the other outside linebacker, Connor Barwin, and the effective ends, Antonio Smith and first-round rookie J.J. Watt.

Those three and everyone on defense have benefitted from Williams’ work. They will all be under pressure to show they can be effective without him.

It’s a bad situation for the Texans, who will talk of overcoming it and work hard to concentrate on whom they have on the field not whom they don’t.

But I fear it’ll amount to a devastating loss.

The Texans are likely without receiver Andre Johnson (hamstring) for two more games. Take away any team's best defensive player and best offensive player and it will have trouble. The Texans are about to find out just how much.