Well, that didn’t take long. Just two weeks into the NFL’s pre-season, Mario Williams is invisible on the stat sheet, yet ubiquitous in the hearts and minds of forever frustrated Texans fans. I’d love to take credit for predicting this phenomenon weeks ago, but the truth of the matter is that anyone possessing even a modicum of insight into the world of pro football knew this day was coming the second Charley Casserly announced that Williams would be wearing battle red and steel blue (although, to be fair, it has since been revealed that Gary Kubiak was the man who made this ill-advised decision).
Before I continue, let me say this: I have not given up on Mario. Yes, I was as crushed as anyone when Houston bypassed Reggie Bush and VY on draft day. But the fact remains that Williams is still only 22 and has only one year of pro ball beneath his belt. That’s the silver (or, at least, pewter) lining.
Now, for the not so good news. Williams reportedly shed nearly twenty pounds this off-season in an effort to become faster on the field. Of course, he still looks completely overwhelmed between the lines. This isn’t exactly a newsflash but, to date, Mario is nothing more than a classic case of a workout warrior who simply has no football IQ, whatsoever. He still only has one pass-rush move (a mediocre bull rush) and continues to get neutralized by a single blocker, more often than not.
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Essentially, anyone who saw him play in college saw this coming from a mile away. At North Carolina State, Williams accumulated his sacks in bunches against inferior competition and, more maddeningly, did so only when someone lit a fire beneath his ass. Not surprisingly, the few times he has shown flashes in a Texans’ uniform have occurred when he gets pissed off in games (he was a monster against the Giants last year) or practice.
To repeat: he's just 22, so I guess there's still hope. But for a guy with all his combine-ready strength and speed, you never see those attributes on the field. By all accounts, he's a good guy, but so is Courtney Brown (the poster child for D-linemen selected first overall who never live up to the hype generated by their immense physical promise). It appears both guys just don't inherently have the motor necessary to truly dominate.
The saddest thing is, this Texans' brass has done some very good things personnel-wise and the current team is an improved one. The Schaub deal looks very good (despite the high price tag) and non-first round picks like DeMeco Ryans, Owen Daniels, Eric Winston and Jacoby Jones look like tremendous values. But, in a way, that almost makes the Mario selection even worse. Because how much better would this team's future look with a Young or Bush in the backfield ?
Someday, perhaps, we’ll get over it. But for now, it's the gift that just keeps on giving. And by "giving," I mean dishing out copious amounts of pain and frustration. – Jason Friedman