Mario's arrival raises expectations in Buffalo

Associated Press  |  Last updated July 24, 2012
Strong and powerful as Mario Williams might be, the defensive end can't bend perception. It's one thing for Williams to suggest, in deference to his new Buffalo Bills teammates, that he's simply a piece of the puzzle, certainly not a one-man show. What's impossible to overlook is what Williams' celebrated arrival three days into free agency in March did - with the stroke of a pen on the bottom line of a $100 million contract - to immeasurably raise the hopes of a generation of the team's win-starved fans. So who is Williams to argue in the face of those sky-high expectations, even though he, his teammates and coaches can all appreciate that one player alone and all the money in the world can't turn a perennial loser into a winner overnight. ''I mean, you can't do anything about it. Whenever you're put in this situation, you have to know there's responsibility that comes with it,'' Williams said. ''At the end of the day, we're all smart people. You know, I came here for a reason, and that's to turn this thing around.'' Williams is no stranger to being thrust into the spotlight. It happened in 2006, when he was drafted first overall by the Houston Texans, ahead of fan favorite Reggie Bush. And it's no different in Buffalo, after the NFL's defensive rookie of the year, two-time Pro Bowl selection, and one of the league's premier pass-rushers signed the most expensive contract ever awarded a defensive player. ''At the end of the day, nobody has higher expectations than myself,'' Williams said, noting he still has plenty to prove after a chest injury ended his season five games into 2011. ''Oh yeah, it's never going to stop until I can be that piece of the puzzle for this team.'' It's been 12 seasons since the Bills last made the playoffs, the NFL's longest current string of futility. They're coming off a 6-10 finish after injuries and inexperience led the team to unravel, losing eight of its last nine games. With training camp set to open in suburban Rochester on Thursday, there's a genuine belief across western New York that this represents their best chance in years of breaking that postseason drought. And Bills fans aren't the only ones excited. The team's alumni have jumped on board, too. ''I haven't been this excited about football in a long time,'' former linebacker Cornelius Bennett said. ''People have reason to be optimistic again,'' added former general manager Bill Polian. ''It's a tough row to hoe in that division, but they're headed in the right direction.'' And no need to remind receiver Andre Reed how long it's been since the Bills last made the playoffs, because the 1999 campaign that ended with the Music City Miracle playoff loss at Tennessee just happened to be his final year in Buffalo. ''I think 12 years is long enough,'' Reed said. ''It's time for this team to take the next step, and it looks like the front office has done that.'' Williams is the centerpiece of a revamped defense now being overseen by Dave Wannstedt. Williams will be part of an experienced and talent-laden front four being counted upon to play havoc with opposing passers. It's a group that includes Kyle Williams and Shawne Merriman, two players coming off season-ending injuries; free-agent newcomer Mark Anderson; and Marcell Dareus, a 2011 first-round pick who had a very promising rookie season. Together, they're expected to improve a defense that last season allowed a franchise-worst 5,938 yards and managed just 29 sacks - 10 in one game. There's plenty of optimism about the Ryan Fitzpatrick-led offense that returns mostly intact. Despite a second-half swoon, the Bills still produced 5,624 yards, their most since 1992, and finished 14th in the NFL in yards, the best ranking since Drew Bledsoe's first season in 2002. Fitzpatrick is getting help on his mechanics from new quarterbacks coach David Lee. His favorite target is back after the Bills re-signed receiver Stevie Johnson in March. And then there's the dual backfield threat of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. Jackson's back and fully recovered from a season-ending broken leg, while Spiller, the 2010 first-round draft pick, finally showed signs of a spark in finishing the season in place of Jackson. Add it up, and it's enough to make coach Chan Gailey upbeat. He can even joke about it after being asked if his team might be quantum leaps ahead from last year. ''I don't know how much quantum is, I'm from south Georgia,'' Gailey said with a chuckle. ''But we're ahead for sure.'' The expectations placed on the Bills don't scare Gailey either. In fact, he welcomes them. ''I want expectations to be high not only from without but from within. And they are,'' Gailey said. ''Yes, there are expectations. Yes, everybody's excited. But we haven't proven anything yet. And we've got to go out on the field and prove it.''
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Bright future for Minnesota Timberwolves

Eli and Archie Manning say Peyton won’t likely leave Denver if he plays in 2016

NCAA mulls changes to graduate transfer and targeting rules

Cavs active in NBA trade market, covet Jared Dudley

Roger Goodell expectedly dodges Patriots-related questions at Super Bowl

Baltimore Orioles acquire starting pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

USC athletic director Pat Haden to retire in June

Report: Browns owner ‘frustrated, emotional’ about Johnny Manziel

Raiders and Texans to play MNF game in Mexico City in 2016

Goodell wants to keep Raiders, Chargers in home markets

Deadly shooting breaks out at Dublin boxing weigh-in

Mike Shula vs. Wade Phillips: The best story of Super Bowl 50

WATCH: Avery Bradley nails buzzer beater to beat Cavs

WATCH: Jimmy Butler taken to locker room in wheel chair

Klay Thompson's first five years in historical context

WATCH: Cubs' Kris Bryant went swimming with sharks

Sports Authority taking steps to file for bankruptcy

Major League Baseball threatens to disassociate from DraftKings

NFL considering moving Pro Bowl to Australia

Joe Montana warns NFL players about potential long-term damage after retirement

Report: Two people fired for leaking Jason Pierre-Paul information

USMNT are big favorites against Canada

‘Crying Jordan’ photographer had no idea it existed until this week

NHL nightmare: No Canadian teams in the NHL playoff hunt

Seven unheralded players set to make major impacts in SB 50

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The 14 biggest plays in Super Bowl history

Manziel's father fears for QB's life

Johnny Manziel dropped by agent

Michael Irvin: Cowboys should save Manziel

QUIZ: Name the Super Bowl halftime performers since 1991

The merits of trading Blake Griffin to the Hornets

X-factors in Super Bowl 50

Could the Marlins contend in 2016?

Report: Browns to cut Manziel in March

Browns rip Manziel in statement

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker