Don’t worry; this isn’t another "Was Mario the right pick?" write up. No, by now that should be a foregone conclusion. All of us that were on the Reggie Bush bandwagon (myself included), or the belief that Vince Young was on a collision course to win multiple Super Bowls, have had our portion of crow by now. If not, it is time to do some serious inner-reflection.
What I want to discuss is has Mario William’s reached his ceiling as an NFL pass rusher?
After an injury plagued war with plantar fascitis and facing more criticism than President Bush during his rookie campaign, he has already rose higher than most expected. A Pro Bowl alternate in his second year and a Pro Bowl starter last season, Mario seems to have risen to the elite of NFL Defensive Ends.
What many of the national pundits neglect to mention is how Mario is doing this while being double teamed on every single play. Yet he registered third in the league in sacks in 2007 (14.0) and sixth in 2008 (12.0) with virtually no help. Yes, I consider the corpse formerly known as Anthony Weaver as no help.
This season, the front office decided to get a bookend opposite Mario in free agent Antonio Smith. Fresh off a trip to Super Bowl XLIII, I am one of the fans who was in favor of this signing. If anything, simply because teams cant just throw two or three guys at Mario on every single snap anymore. Antonio Smith has never been accused of being an elite pass rusher, but he does demand some attention. He also provides experience and veteran leadership to a young defense. This can only help Mario, who is only going to be 24 years old and in his fourth season this year.
I think this is the year that people no longer attach Mario’s name to Reggie Bush or Vince Young. This is the year that his name is mentioned with players like Jared Allen, Dwight Freeney and Julius Peppers. Names that matter. Names that he should be mentioned with.