Williams will bring pressure despite shift to LB, Phillips says

When it was first revealed that Mario Williams would switch to linebacker in new Houston Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' scheme, the doubters were loud and plentiful.

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The case against the switch was two-fold. First, Williams is one of the NFL's most productive defensive ends. Moving him to linebacker would be a clear violation of the if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it principle. Second, Williams is a big man -- 6-foot-6 and 290 pounds, to be exact. He'd be a skyscraper at a position where many players are built like fire hydrants.

So, Phillips took time out Monday to clarify his thinking on the issue.

"They say '3-4,' '4-3,' all that," Phillips told the Texans' official website at their annual Charity Golf Classic. "We really play a 5-2. We play five defensive linemen that can rush the passer and two inside 'backers who can tackle people. And we think Mario certainly fits in there."

Phillips explained that Williams often will stand up on the right edge of the line, serving as a weakside linebacker.

"We put (Williams) in the premier position," Phillips said. "You're rushing the passer more at Will (weakside linebacker), and so that's where we put him.

"We were looking in the draft for the best pass rusher. Well, we had him on our team, and so we just moved him to that position rather than going the other way around."

And while Williams will be listed as a linebacker, don't figure to see the two-time Pro Bowl pick in much pass coverage.

"We're not going to drop him," Phillips said. "We're going to rush him. That's why I say we're more of a 5-2, in that those five guys are coming a lot of the time, especially the position Mario plays. DeMarcus Ware played that position, Bryce Paup –- on and on, guys that have led the league. They didn't lead the league in sacks by dropping a whole lot."

Texans coach Gary Kubiak said the team can employ this defense because of the shape-shifting nature of its roster.

"We have a lot of versatility," Kubiak said. "(Brian) Cushing gives us a lot of versatility. Connor Barwin gives us a lot of versatility. If Mark Anderson ... ends up being ours throughout this (free-agency) process, he gives us versatility."

Williams' career in Houston began with controversy in 2006, when the Texans drafted him first overall when popular thinking had Reggie Bush going there. Williams vindicated Houston with a strong career that has included 48 sacks in five seasons. He finished last season with 8.5 sacks, his lowest output since his rookie year.

It's possible a change in strategy can help Williams return to his heights of 2007 and 2008, when he put up 26 sacks in 32 games.

"The more you can do with players scheme-wise helps you," Phillips said. "We're going to put Mario down some, but we're not going to tell them when. And same thing with Cushing: We're going to play him inside most of the time, but sometimes he's going to be rushing outside."

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