FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Super Mario is back, and the New York Jets are well aware.
They’ve watched the game film. Several times.
The battle between Jets rookie Geno Smith and first-year Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel has garnered most of the headlines. But for New York, this game will be all about stopping Mario Williams.
Williams was all over the place in a dominant performance in the Bills’ win over the Carolina Panthers last Sunday. He had a franchise record 4½ sacks, and looked very much like the game-changing force Buffalo has expected him to be since signing him to a huge deal last year.
“He’s one of those dual-type defensive ends who has it all,” Jets right tackle Austin Howard said Thursday. “He has speed and can get your edge pretty good with his speed and athleticism, and at the same time, he’s really strong, so he can get you really good with a power move.”
That’s been the book on Williams throughout his career, including his first six NFL seasons with Houston when he made two Pro Bowl teams and was one of the league’s most feared defensive players.
“God touched this guy,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said. “Like, gave him unbelievable gifts. He’s got the height, the size, the length, the arms, the speed. That’s kind of what jumps out.
“And he plays hard, he’s smart.”
Buffalo made him the NFL’s first $100 million defensive player before last season, and the expectations skyrocketed. He had 10½ sacks, which wasn’t too shabby, but he wasn’t as effective as the Bills imagined, and a wrist injury didn’t help matters. With a new defensive coordinator in Mike Pettine this season, Williams seems to be pretty comfortable.
Bad news for the Jets, and the rest of the Bills’ opponents.
“I think he’s a very good football player all around,” Bills coach Doug Marrone said. “I tend not to try to label him as an elite pass rusher. I think he’s an excellent pass rusher. I think he plays very well against the run and is really a complete player for us who can do a lot of things.”
Howard will likely draw much of the assignment to block Williams, although the Bills move him all around the line. Howard and the rest of the Jets’ offensive line did a solid job against Williams last season, holding him without a sack. Williams also managed just four total tackles in the two games, and Howard said the line will review the film of those games, too.
The Bills star did, however, claim that Howard was blocking him illegally while using his hands to Williams’ face. Howard said he didn’t remember too much about the allegations, but knew that he wasn’t called for a penalty for doing any of that.
“We know the challenge we face for this weekend,” Howard said. “We’re not naive to it. You never know how good you are until you go out there and get tested, so we’re not going to shy away from any challenge.”
Williams is just a piece — a major one, of course — of the Bills’ big defensive line that includes Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus and Alex Carrington.
“They’re a physical outfit,” right guard Willie Colon said. “We’ve got a lot of physical matchups coming up ahead, so it’s important that we start getting the mentality and start setting the tone that when we hit the field, we’ve got to be the most physical team. The most physical team normally wins the game.
“That needs to be us.”
The Jets also need to find a way to stop the Bills’ two-headed rushing attack of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson.
“They complement each other very well,” defensive tackle Damon Harrison said. “You can’t arm-tackle, because these guys run right through that. We’ll have to rally together to make a tackle. If not, it’ll be a long day.”
The Jets showed some feistiness last Thursday night at New England when Colon and left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson were ejected for their roles in a sideline skirmish. It started when center Nick Mangold dived low at Aqib Talib, who intercepted Smith to seal the victory.
Ferguson appeared to take a swing at a Patriots player, and Colon got into it with another player and also made contact with an official. Both Ferguson and Colon said they have been fined by the league for their actions, but wouldn’t reveal the cost. A person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press that Colon was fined $34,125. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the league hadn’t yet announced the fine.
Mangold said he had “cautious optimism” Thursday because he hadn’t yet heard from the NFL.
“I saw Nick and Brick over there in a scuffle, saw a wave of Patriots and my initial reaction was to go help them out, and help my brothers,” Colon said. “I’m always going to play like that, and obviously, it costs me a lot of money to play like that.
“But we’ve got to stand for something.”
NOTES: Ryan downplayed a report that backup QB Matt Simms has lots of support in the organization and could replace Smith if the rookie struggles. “I think there’s a lot of guys that like Simms, I don’t think there’s any doubt,” Ryan said. “But to say as our starting quarterback? I don’t see that. Again, I’m obviously not saying that that couldn’t happen or whatever, but we see Geno as our starting quarterback now.” … CB Antonio Cromartie, hampered by a sore hip, said he’s feeling the best he has since the first day of training camp. “I was playing on one hip,” he said.
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