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Don't Rush To Judgment On Mario Williams

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I agree with Houston Chronicle writer John McClain (waits for world to end). 

Whew. Crisis averted. Why do I agree with someone I tend to criticize though? Unlike the many radio callers, McClain, and running mate Jerome Solomon as well, have very reasonable opinions on the Houston Texans endbacker known as Mario Williams. Jump with me and let’s talk it out.

Apparently, sports radio callers, which means mostly people with entirely too much time on the hands and access to a phone, have been all over the air waves saying Houston should trade Williams to Philadelphia for expendable Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel.

First off, the notion of trading a player like Williams is almost always laughable. Since being drafted, the two-time All-Pro has the seventh-most sacks (48) in the NFL, has improved his overall game each season by becoming a significantly better run defender and refining his pass rushing moves, played through injuries, and done it with a lackluster supporting cast of defensive talent (Hi, Travis Johnson, Zac Diles, and many numerous defensive backs who couldn't cover for three seconds!) and coaches (Hi, Richard Smith and Frank Bush!).

Secondly, as McClain and Solomon both say, people are basing this off of three quarters of preseason play. I don’t get why either. Is it because ESPN is replaying one play from that Monday Night game against New York? Is it because Mario’s not showing up on the stat sheet with sacks and meaningless tackles (yes, tackles are largely meaningless…but that’s a whole other story).

Yes, Mario looked skittish in his first action at linebacker, but he was streets ahead of himself five days later. Against New Orleans, Williams looked more comfortable. He had three pressures on Drew Brees, forced the running back inside a few times, and had some good moments in pass coverage as he nearly had an interception and was in perfect position on a screen pass which allowed other to pressure Brees and force him to throw it away. There was no statistical showing, but his presences was felt and it’s on tape.

Speaking of tape, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and linebacker Reggie Herring have two games of tape to use and help Mario refine his technique, particularly staying low. As Mario gains experience (as in more than three quarters), he’ll continue to improve as he showed from game one to game two. He’s an elite athlete (the man ran a 4.7 40-yard dash at 295 pounds and bench pressed 225 pounds an astounding 35 times) who works hard, so the safe bet is that he’ll get it turned around quick, and, as McClain put it, will likely lead the team in sacks for the sixth straight year.  

Give him time, Houston fans. The least you could do is reserve judgment on the transition after three quarters of action. After all, Mario's shown he can prove snap doubters wrong before...right Vince Young and Reggie Bush?  

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.