Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan says the Dolphins are giving Mario Williams “everything he wants” by allowing him to line up at defensive end in a 4-3 defense, as opposed to playing a lot of linebacker in the 3-4 utilized by Ryan last year.
So it’s no surprise that Williams, coming off the most disappointing season of his career, was upbeat Wednesday when he met with reporters in person for the first time since signing a two-year, $17 million deal with the Dolphins in March.
“Schematically, things you made a name doing — and now to have an opportunity to do [that again] — is very fortunate,” he said.
Williams, 31, had only five sacks and 19 tackles in 15 games last season, down from 14 1/2 and 42 the previous year.
But Dolphins management doesn’t believe his skills have diminished — “he’s a freak of a man,” defensive tackle Jordan Phillips said Wednesday — and attributes his modest numbers last season to playing in a role with which he wasn’t comfortable.
Williams believes new Dolphins coordinator Vance Joseph will put him in position to make plays.
“He’s really relying on the guys up front to turn it loose and get after it, which is what most of us are accustomed to doing,” Williams said. “It’s exciting for us knowing [we can] cut it loose. We take it on our shoulders as d-linemen — and most of us are vets — we’re going to go as far as the d-line goes.”
Joseph said recently that Williams “is motivated. When he’s motivated, he’s pretty good.”
Williams agreed with that assessment.
“The most motivation I have, that I want to show, is to this organization,” he said. “Vance believes in me. The biggest thing is showing them that, ‘you’re right,’ and I am definitely going to do everything I can to impact [the game]. I believe in his word and what he’s putting together for us to be able to cut it loose and play to our abilities.”
He said playing opposite Cameron Wake “is going to be great.”
Williams — tied for seventh among active players in sacks with 96 — won’t turn 32 until January, and many of the NFL’s great pass rushers historically thrive well into their 30s.
Wake had 11 1/2 sacks at 32. Jason Taylor had 13 1/2 sacks at 32 and 11 at 33. Richard Dent had 12 1/2 at 33, Julius Peppers 11 at 31 and 11 1/2 at 32. Robert Mathis had 19 1/2 at 32.
Bruce Smith had 14 at 34 and 10 at 35. Michael Strahan had 18 1/2 at 32, Chris Doleman 11 at 35 and Reggie White 16 at 37.
Does Williams believe he has everything left in his arsenal?
“If you don’t believe in what you’re doing, you’re not going to be good at it at all,” he said.
▪ With the Dolphins releasing Brice McCain earlier this offseason, Bobby McCain said he has moved into the role of first-team slot corner during offseason practices. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Tyler Patmon also are expected to compete there.
▪ As for Olomu, he is participating in all football drills for the first time since sustaining a serious left knee injury at Oregon before the 2015 Rose Bowl.
He underwent two major reconstructive surgeries, more extensive than usual for an ACL injury, and also sustained a dislocated knee.
He said Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Dodgers team physician Neal ElAttrache, who performed the operations, “said I’m perfectly fine [now]. He would have cleared me a couple months back, but when I got to Miami they wanted to make sure I went through the offseason program and did all the stuff with the team before they decided to clear me” last week.
Ekpre-Olomu, who dropped from a projected early-round pick to the seventh round because of the knee injury, didn’t play at all for Cleveland last season while recovering from the injury. The Browns cut him in March.
“It was something with new management; they wanted to go in a different direction,” Ekpre-Olomu said. “I’m happy I’m here.”
▪ Phillips, who had 19 tackles and two sacks in 14 games as a rookie, said Wednesday: “I didn’t feel like I did what I needed to do last year. I need to come in the league and prove myself. There were a lot of expectations, and I didn’t feel like I reached them the way that I wanted to.”