I can't believe I fell into the trap.
Not the trap where I didn't think Wade Phillips would use Mario Williams in the DeMarcus Ware role at times, but the trap where I didn't trust my initial gut instinct. My first text message following the selection of J.J. Watt was something along the lines of "so, Mario is Ware now?" and instead of just going with that, I slandered the pick for not being Robert Quinn because Quinn would have been the highest potential pass rusher on the board.
So yes, the Watt pick makes much more sense to me now. It doesn't change much of my criticism because I still think adding Quinn would've been the smarter overall move, but at least you can see what Phillips is doing here. At least until you think about nose tackle.
So many words have been spilled over Williams' position change that just have nothing to do with what will actually happen on the field. Let me explain for you the actual changes, in a word:
Williams will continue to focus first and foremost on the things he is good at: rushing the passer and playing the run. Phillips will move Williams around formations to try and isolate the weakest pass protector he can find, and Williams will pile up sacks.
Beyond the obvious lack of practice time to acclimate to Phillips' new system on the field as compared to what they would have in a lockout, there really isn't much to be concerned about with the move. Williams isn't going to be doing drastically different things here. He may have to drop into pass coverage a little more often, but he has plenty of experience in rushing from a stand-up position. As a whole, I don't think he rushes the passer as well standing up as he did in a three-point stance, but that will likely be offset by the quality of pass blocker he faces under Phillips.
More importantly, this is what the plan should have looked like from the start. Clearly Williams being a 3-4 defensive end was a smokescreen, although he could play that on a few different downs. Anyone who really bought Williams as a 3-4 DE, myself included, clearly has fallen victim to an elaborate prank of the Texans front office and their faithful parrots.
So all this guffawing and hoopla about Williams needing to lose weight or Williams not having the athletic ability to cover running backs in the flat? It's irrelevant. Mario Williams isn't changing positions, the position is changing for him.