You’re hearing it already.
It’s the criticism being thrown Mario Williams’ way because after playing 17 snaps Saturday night at San Francisco, his name didn’t show up in the official stat sheet.
That’s right. Seventeen snaps for our new weakside outside linebacker conversion project and he recorded (officially) no tackles, no assists, no sacks, no tackles for loss, no quarterback hurries, no interceptions, no passes defended, no forced fumbles and no fumble recoveries.
Zip. Nada. Zilch.
But before you go all crazy and cram the airwaves with ‘trade Mario’ talk (again), consider that there might be more going on than the what the stat sheet is telling you.
I’ve tried to stay out of the Mario debate, mainly because he is learning a new position that’s way out of his comfort zone.
The height of my criticism has been to say that “he’s struggling” (which I think he is to a large extent) and this post on my Twitter feed after the New Orleans game last weekend where I said: “Maybe its just me but I didn’t see Mario take a “big step forward” last night as Kubiak says. Live or on DVR.”
So while I admit that I remain skeptical of this project, I sense the criticism out there is gaining momentum, to the point where it’s somewhat unfair.
Let me say this. Just because Mario’s name didn’t show up in the stat sheet last night doesn’t mean he didn’t make any plays.
This afternoon, I re-watched every Texans defensive play in the first half of their game against the 49ers and came to the conclusion that Mario’s perfformance was something a little bit better than he’s “not making plays” – even though his name’s not in the stat sheet.
Here’s what I saw on my re-watch:
- I counted 24 snaps for the Texans defense in the first half. The gamebook shows the 49ers with 23 offensive plays, but there was one ‘no-play’ due to penalty. More on that later. I counted snaps and I saw Mario in on 17 of the 24.
- Of his 17 snaps, I gave Mario ‘plusses’ on 4 snaps, ‘minuses’ on 1 snap, and nominal or no-impact on the remaining 12.
- Plusses are what I consider above average performance on the play and minuses were below average outcomes. Nominal or no-impact means he wasn’t involved in the play, either because a) the play went away from him; b) he did what appeared to be expected of him on the play but wasnt a factor – such as holding point on the outside edge on an inside run, or c) he was unsuccessful in making a play – which could be further cut up and analyzed for the minus category.
I gave Mario plusses on these plays:
- On the 49ers second play from scrimmage, a 2nd and 7 at the 8:57 mark of the first quarter, Williams had good pressure on Alex Smith on an outside rush against 49ers right tackle Anthony Davis. Smith completed an 8 yard pass to Ted Ginn on the play but Mario brought the heat.
- On the first play of the second quarter, Mario speed rushed outside and beat Davis on a great swim move. He arrived at Alex Smith a split second after Antonio Smith got there. Smith got credit for the sack but Mario was right there.
- On the very next play, at 14:20 of the second quarter, Mario was in Alex Smith’s face again, forcing a quick throw and an incompletion on a 3rd and 8.
- At the 6:33 mark of the second quarter, Mario showed off his great athleticism by jumping over running back Kendall Hunter’s block and then meeting Connor Barwin at the quarterback. Yes, it was a roughing penalty and the coaches might give him a minus for this one, but I gave him a plus on the play for getting to the quarterback in impressive fashion.
I gave Mario a minus for a play at the 7:18 mark of the second quarter. On a 1st and 10, Mario was lined up outside of 49ers left tackle Joe Staley. Pre-snap, the 49ers motioned the H-back to Mario’s side just outside Staley. Mario crashed hard inside on the play and lost contain, allowing the 49ers running back a cutback lane outside for an 8 yard gain.
Mario worked against Staley and Davis depending on the 49ers formation and whatever side was weakside on a given play. He dropped into coverage once, on a 1st and 10 at the 0:35 mark of the first quarter, covering a RB in the flat on a play away from his side.
What may be surprising to some fans, if they didn’t watch closely, is that Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed were the outside linebackers on seven snaps in the first half. A foreshadowing, possibly?
Who knows, but to sum this up let me suggest that before you jump on the anti-Mario stat sheet bandwagon, at least re-watch the game to see for yourself what happened on each of his 17 snaps. Then let’s compare notes.
If you do that. I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s not as bad as some are saying and as many are repeating.