It's not easy for defensive tackles to put numbers in the stat column every week. Often faced with tying up linemen so their linebackers can go make plays, interior defenders up front aren't always given the freedom to make plays.
Kyle Williams however, has been given a new license by Buffalo's coaching staff to make things happen, and through the first two games the Bills defensive tackle has delivered.
Williams stat line shows just six tackles through two games, but the number that jumps out is the four quarterback hits he's racked up the last two weeks. Known for getting consistent penetration, Williams has taken it a step further and it's helped Buffalo's defense considerably.
It was Williams that got pressure on Tom Brady in Week 1, when his rainbow dump-off pass was picked off by Aaron Schobel and returned for a touchdown. This past Sunday Williams put heat on Byron Leftwich hurrying a check down pass that was overthrown, intercepted by Donte Whitner and also returned for a touchdown.
The defensive tackle credits his fast start to his defensive coaches that gave him the latitude to play more instinctively.
"I've gotten out of being so mechanical," said Williams. "(Defensive line coach) Bob (Sanders) and (defensive coordinator) Perry (Fewell) have talked to me and said, 'Just go.' The past couple of years I've just been in my gap almost all the time, and if the play came to my gap then I'd make a bunch of plays. But now they're freeing me up and saying, 'Sometimes you can go and take a shot and try to make a play.' And that's been the difference."
Buffalo's staff trusts Williams' ability to quickly assess when it's the right time to take a risk and try and go make a play. They know he won't take chances to the point where it compromises the integrity of the defense.
"He's very quick off the ball, very athletic in his change of direction and above and beyond all that has got a great feel for the game," said head coach Dick Jauron. "He understands the game of football and what the opponents are trying to do."
Williams had played the nose tackle or one-technique position his first two seasons with Buffalo, but was moved to the three-technique spot after Marcus Stroud's arrival last season. The three-technique is supposed to be the up field penetrator and playmaker on the interior. But in a gap control defense like Buffalo's Williams was so concerned about his assignment it was robbing him of his natural playmaking ability.
"Last year was my first time playing significant time at the three (technique). It's getting a bit more comfortable and (I have) a better feel for it. Them coming to me and telling me, 'We trust you and we know you're a good player so go make some plays. You have the ability to make some plays for us and we don't want to put a bridle on you and saying you have to be here.' That's helped."
In addition to his two quarterback pressures that led to interception return touchdowns, Williams was in on the 4th-and-1 tackle against New England that forced a turnover on downs. He had a tackle for a five-yard loss on the second play from scrimmage last Sunday against Tampa Bay. And on a 3rd-and-13 he had another quarterback hit last week forcing an incomplete pass from Leftwich and a Tampa punt.
His impact thus far has also helped to free up Marcus Stroud more and he's responded with plays of his own. The Bills nose tackle is currently fourth on the team in tackles and leads the defensive unit with three tackles for loss.
"Playing with Marcus (Stroud) in there and with Spencer (Johnson) when he comes in and John (McCargo), it's a really nice combination and they help him too," said Jauron. "Marcus and he play off each other so it's been what we thought it would be to date and we anticipate they'll keep getting better."
"Any time the coaches come and tell you they know you can make plays and cut you loose a little bit it gives you confidence," said Williams. "I think its disrupted running games and I had three clean hits on the quarterback Sunday and two or three other times I had a hand in his face. It's worked out well and hopefully it will continue."