- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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Few players were criticized in the first half of last season more than Buffalo Bills star defensive end Mario Williams. After signing a $100 million contract in 2012 -- by far the richest in Bills history -- much was expected of the former Pro Bowler in a season Buffalo was expected to make the jump from pretender to contender.
But Williams got off to a slow start because of inconsistency, a nagging wrist injury, and perhaps getting used to a new defensive system. However, a strong finish helped Williams save face and register double-digit sacks (10.5) for the third time in his career. It's also clear that Williams still strikes fear in his opponents.
Fellow NFL players ranked Williams at No. 72 on the league's top 100 this week. Despite an up-and-down year, opponents still respect the abilities of the former No. 1 overall pick. Williams has the size, athleticism and length to be a double-digit sack player every year.
Buffalo will run a hybrid 3-4 and 4-3 scheme this season under new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. Williams will be a huge focal point, and Pettine will try to put his best pass-rusher in position to get to the quarterback. The Bills are counting on Williams to build off the final seven games of 2012, when he registered six of his 10.5 sacks.
3dField Yates and Rich Cimini