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Stand-up guy: Texans' Williams welcomes move to linebacker

  • By NFL.com
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New Houston Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has the answer for those people wondering how defensive ends Mario Williams and Connor Barwin will coexist with newcomers J.J. Watt and Brooks Reed.

Phillips told the Houston Chronicle on Thursday that he plans to use Williams, a two-time Pro Bowl defensive end, at weakside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme he is installing with the Texans.

"I think he's the rush guy we need," said Phillips, who helped the Dallas Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware become the NFL's premier pass rusher at the same position that Williams will play. "You have to put him in the spot that gives him the best chance to rush the passer all the time and be your star rusher.

"He's got the talent. With him standing up, he lines up a little wider, and he's coming every time on a different angle."

Williams has been finishing up his sports management degree at N.C. State this spring, but he met with Phillips last Friday when the lockout was briefly lifted.

"I feel great about it," Williams said about the move to linebacker. "What an opportunity for me.

"Wade told me he'll put me in the best position to make plays, and the biggest thing that got my attention was when he said, 'Just go.' He wants me to get after the quarterback 90 percent of the time. He said, 'When the ball's snapped, I want you to go, be fast and get the quarterback.'

"When they want me to cover, I'll do it. I don't think that'll happen too much. I don't think you'll see me turning and running and covering somebody man-to-man down the field."

At 6-foot-7 and 290 pounds, Williams would become the largest outside linebacker in NFL history, according to the Chronicle. But Phillips said whittling down Williams' frame shouldn't be an issue.

"I don't think he's a natural 290-pound guy," Phillips said. "When he came in the other day, he was like 282. I don't think he'll have a problem getting down a little bit."

Williams is entering his sixth season since the Texans took him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 draft. He has 48 sacks in 77 games, all starts.

Williams totaled 8.5 sacks last season, his fewest since his rookie campaign. The 2010 season also marked the first in which he missed any time, the result of a hernia injury that sidelined him for the final three weeks.

With Williams lined up on the weak side, the Texans could field an intimidating group of linebackers. Outside linebacker Brian Cushing weighs 260 and Barwin weighs 254. Middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans weighs 250.

The Texans selected 292-pound Watt with the 11th overall pick in last month's draft. Reed, a 262-pound defensive end out of Arizona, went to Houston with the 42nd overall pick.

"I'm very excited about this," Williams said. "I think it'll be a good change-up for our team -- not just for me, but overall because of the flexibility Wade will have with the way he'll be able to mix things up."

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