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The NFL’s ‘Williams Factor’

June 7, 2011

June 8, 2011 | Dan Arkush | ProFootballWeekly.com

Where there’s a Williams, there’s a way.

A way to do what, you ask?

With not much else going on for the time being except scattered players-only workouts — and the sincere hope that meaningful under-the-radar powwows among the NFL’s powers-that-be have only just begun — I have come up with a column that drops a lot of NFL names and touches on a surprising number of topics.

All of which revolve around one very familiar last name.

In case you didn’t know, there are currently 57 active NFL players with the last name “Williams,” according to NFL.com — from second-round rookie CB Aaron Williams of the Buffalo Bills to sixth-round rookie C Zack Williams of the Carolina Panthers.

That’s eight more than NFL players with the last name “Johnson,” 18 more than those with the last name “Smith” and 31 more than those with the last name “Jones.”

Fascinated yet? Hey, I’m just getting started.

Believe it or not, there are twice as many NFC players named Williams than AFC players (38-19). There is much less of a disparity, however, between offensive players with the last name Williams (30) and defensive players with the last name Williams (27).

There are also eight rookies and 13 potential free agents that share the same last name with baseball greats Ted and Billy Williams, famous playwright Tennessee Williams, comedian/actor Robin Williams, and actresses Michelle and Vanessa Williams, among others.

What would have been really fun is to have put together a Pro Football Weekly “All-Williams” team, but the lack of any candidate at the all-important QB position put the kibosh on that concept.

So let’s ponder the following 10 Williams-related questions instead, and see where it leads us:

1. Just how big a NFL star has Texans DE Mario Williams become?

I think we can all agree that former Texans GM Charley Casserly ended up making the right decision selecting Williams ahead of Reggie Bush and Vince Young in the 2006 draft. That said, Williams’ sack totals have decreased every season since his high-water mark of 14 in ’07, in great part due to injuries (he had 8½ sacks in 13 games before leaving the lineup with a season-ending sports hernia injury last year). After initially envisioning Williams as another Bruce Smith in his 3-4 scheme, new Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips changed his tune after the draft, deciding that Williams would be a better fit as a king-sized version of Cowboys OLB DeMarcus Ware on the weak side. The big rap on Williams by many league observers is that he doesn’t play hard all the time. Entering his contract year, though, he figures to go full throttle on every snap for a defense that needs to step it up to be a legitimate factor in the AFC South.

2. Was there a bigger breakthrough player last season than Packers CB Tramon Williams(notes)?

A street free agent in 2006, Williams, who was given a well-deserved contract extension in late November, made a quantum leap in his fourth season, playing as well, if not better, than any cornerback in the NFC. After leading the Super Bowl champion Packers with six interceptions and 23 passes defensed in the regular season, Williams further elevated his game in the postseason with three interceptions, including a game-clinching pick vs. Philadelphia and a back-breaking 70-yard TD vs. Atlanta. Displaying great consistency, he allowed only one TD pass all year and was called for only one penalty the entire regular season. He also has yet to have an injury in four seasons. If he isn’t a perennial Pro Bowler for the rest of his career, I don’t know who is. More >

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