"If we had Bush, would we outscore Indianapolis? Our decision was no."—Texans owner Bob McNair explaining why Houston drafted Mario Williams instead of Reggie Bush.
Bob McNair also referenced Peyton Manning in his explanation, saying he believed Houston needed a top pass-rusher since Manning is the quarterback of the current gold standard in the AFC South. This week McNair will get his first opportunity to see if his strategy will pay off against a Peyton Manning-led team.
Rated the top speed-rusher in the 2006 draft, analysts expect Mario Williams to quickly become an upper-echelon defensive end. Williams has all the features you look for in a defensive end. He blends a nice combination of quickness, long limbs, large hands and solid overall strength. Like most classic edge rushers, speed is the most dangerous aspect of his game. He has that explosive initial step to beat offensive tackles coming off the edge and burst off the snap that enables him to split double teams.
Just as Jevon Kearse of the Eagles has done so well for so long, Williams knows how to use his long arms to jar a blocker and gain control. His arm technique and strength can be negated, however, if he gets too high too quickly and fails to use those long arms to keep defenders off his body. Has also has the leg drive to push the pocket on the bull rush. This is not a tactic he likes to use too often, because he will show a tendency to tire.
Coming out of college, one of the biggest knocks on Williams was that he relies more on his physical ability to make the play and had not yet developed the natural football instincts and awareness needed. And Williams is learning that being successful in the NFL requires more than just raw ability. Texans Head Coach Gary Kubiak evaluated Williams' Week 1 performance against Philadelphia saying, "He's got a long way to go, just like everybody else. He was inconsistent. He did some things well early in the game and made a couple of plays early in the second half. But he needs to be consistent, assignment-wise and gap-wise. He's got to get much better, as we all do."
This week Williams will seek to become more consistent against the savvy 10-year veteran Tarik Glenn. For a lineman with Glenn's size and mass, he's actually pretty nimble on his feet. He's agile, moves well, and can recover when beaten off the snap. Pure speed rushers will give him trouble and beat him to his outside shoulder at times, but even when that happens he still doesn't give up many sacks. He also shows a solid initial punch and can anchor against a power rush.
Sometimes he's too patient in pass protection and will struggle to cut down the angles. So the new school of thought seems to be to try to beat Glenn inside instead of having to deal with his wingspan and arm extension on the outside. Last year, he was periodically guilty of failing to slide inside to help the interior line handle overload blitzes. He just looked overwhelmed at times. The Colts trust him one-on-one against almost anyone, so they won't game plan to give him much blocking help -- but they'll adjust as the game progresses if need be.
It's a classic trench battle between youth and experience that features one of the most talented young players at his position lining up against a proven veteran who is one of the best at his position. Williams and even Bob McNair would love nothing more than seeing "Super Mario" get his first professional sack on Peyton Manning. It would potentially go a long way towards quieting doubters and even puting a hold on "why not Reggie" questions for a few days. And if he can get multiple sacks in this game? That might quiet critics for a whole week.
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