ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Mark Sanchez or Tim Tebow, play-action pass, run or wildcat formation: Mario Williams isn’t worried about what the New York Jets might have in store for the Buffalo Bills defense this weekend.
Whatever it might be, the defensive end can’t see how it’ll slow the Bills’ new-look and high-priced pass rush.
“No, no, no,” Williams said Wednesday, dismissively shaking his head.
The Bills’ season-opener at the Meadowlands Sunday has Williams eager to finally start earning the six-year, $100 million contract — the richest awarded to an NFL defensive player — he signed in March.
“The biggest thing is it’s finally a chance to get out there and play,” he said. “I’m really excited about it. It’s been a long time. It’s time to get out here with these guys and really get after it.”
And it doesn’t matter to Williams that Jets coach Rex Ryan has already promised to unveil Tebow and the wildcat formation after keeping it under wraps throughout the preseason.
“We’ll be the first ones to face it, obviously, but it’s one of those things that we’ve got to be able to adjust quickly depending on what they do and come out with,” Williams said. “At the end of the day, as long as you hit the quarterback and get him down, you can do what you want to do.”
At 6-foot-6 and 292 pounds, Williams provides the Bills’ once-porous and patchwork defense a huge presence and a new pass-rushing dimension. Aside from allowing a franchise-worst 5,938 yards last year, Buffalo managed just 29 sacks last season — 10 of them coming in one game. The Bills’ pass rush has been so anemic, they haven’t averaged more than two sacks a season since finishing with 40 in 2006.
That has a great potential to change. A week after signing Williams three days into free agency, the Bills added another pass-rushing specialist, defensive end Mark Anderson a week later.
In making the switch to a 4-3 defensive system, the line is anchored by tackles Kyle Williams, who has looked rejuvenated after having season-ending foot surgery, and Marcell Dareus, who is coming off a solid rookie season.
The line showed glimpses of its havoc-creating potential during Buffalo’s third preseason game against Pittsburgh. Dareus and Kyle Williams twice collapsed the pocket to flush quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was then sacked by Mario Williams.
“It’s a little spooky,” Dareus said of how well the line worked, because it makes him even more eager to start the season. “This is where we make the money. This is what they pay us the big bucks for. They made a great investment on the front four, and I’m pretty sure we won’t disappoint them.”
Expectations are certainly high in Buffalo as a result of Super Mario, who’s addition was regarded as a sign of how serious the Bills are in their bid to end a 12-year playoff drought — the NFL’s longest active streak. Williams was selected with the No. 1 pick in the 2006 draft by Houston. In six seasons with the Texans, Williams was a two-time Pro Bowl selection and set the franchise record with 53 sacks.
And he returns healthy after missing the final 11 games of last season with a chest injury, while also driven to make a good impression in making his debut.
“I really don’t get nervous, but it does feel like my rookie year all over again,” Williams said. “I’m pretty sure it’ll be a little bit of anxiety, but it’ll be fine.”
Williams and Co. have certainly captured Ryan’s attention in New York.
“Oh shoot, I was like ‘Oh no, please don’t,’” Ryan said, regarding his initial thoughts when learning Williams was considering signing in Buffalo. “I can tell you this, our tackle’s probably not sleeping very well this week, there’s no doubt. I know I wouldn’t be if I had to go against him.”
And yet, Ryan sees an upside to Williams joining the AFC East, because he also has the potential to play havoc with the Jets’ opponents, such as the Patriots.
“If we can survive the two weeks against him, it would be a positive in that he gets to go hit Tom Brady,” Ryan said.