Orchard Park, NY (WGR550) -- When the Buffalo Bills reeled in free agent defensive end Mario Williams to headline their defense, shockwaves were sent through more people than just the team's fan base.
Add New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan to that list of people who had a strong reaction to the news, albeit an averse one.
"Oh shoot, I was like oh no, please don’t, please don’t," Ryan said when recalling the three-day courting process the Bills engaged in to land Williams. "Obviously you wish those players were on your team, but the fact that he went to Buffalo, it’s like, oh boy. He’s a tremendous football player."
It's hard not to respect everything the Bills' marquis defender has done throughout his six-year career in Houston. Upon being selected first overall in the 2006 NFL Draft, Williams endured a tremendous amount of scrutiny for being picked ahead of both running back Reggie Bush and quarterback Vince Young.
Six years later, Williams proved that the Houston Texans made the right decision. Totaling 53 sacks and 11 forced fumbles over six years, the former top choice has also enjoyed two 10-plus sack seasons.
The rare combination of his size (6-foot-6, 292-pounds), speed and physicality has Ryan searching for every way possible to get his right tackle ready for the challenge ahead. He may even be over-compensating by having two of his normal defensive contributors line up with the scout team.
"We’ll line up a guy offside and everything else in practice…we’re going to have Aaron Maybin play him over there, and we’ll line him up offsides and say get ready to chase this guy," the loquacious head coach started. "We’re going to put [Quinton] Coples over there some as well, but I’m trying to get that quickness of a guy that can get off the football like Mario does, and with that kind of speed. In the run, we’re going to put Coples over there even though he’s starting on defense, we’re going to have him as a scout teamer as well to be like Mario."
Anything the Jets can do to get ready for "Super Mario" (as the Jets head coach called him), they will for the sake of their starting right tackle. That matchup very well could be one that has the Bills thinking big in their regular season opener.
Williams will be lined up across from Austin Howard, a former undrafted free agent now in his third season, who has just one start to his credit since entering the league in 2010. The 6-foot-7, 333-pound tackle took over starting right tackle duties for the since dealt Wayne Hunter (St. Louis) halfway through the preseason.
"With Austin, he hasn’t had a whole lot of game experience, but we feel good about him," Ryan said of his rather green starter on the right side of the offensive line. "He’s a huge man that can bend. He’s a guy that’s kind of a road grader in the running game, so I think that’ll help as well."
Even so, the Jets coach is a realist with how his young right tackle may be approaching this game.
"I can tell you this, our tackle’s probably not sleeping very well this week, there’s no doubt," Ryan remarked. "I know I wouldn’t be if I had to go against him."
The Bills and Jets kick-off their regular seasons on Sunday at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.