DAVIE, Fla. -- The beginning was storybook. The ending was harsh.
That essentially sums up former Pro Bowl defensive end Mario Williams' four seasons with the Buffalo Bills. He arrived on a six-year, $100 million contract and plenty of fanfare, with hopes of ending Buffalo’s longstanding playoff drought.
Despite some good seasons, Williams’ tenure ended after four years with unhappiness on both sides. Williams didn’t like the scheme under Bills coach Rex Ryan and how he was being utilized, and questions emerged about Williams’ lack of motivation and his disappearing for long stretches last season.
The Bills decided it was best to part ways with their former franchise player this offseason, and the Miami Dolphins quickly signed Williams to a two-year, $17 million contract. Sunday will mark the first time Williams will play his former team when the Dolphins (2-4) host the Bills (4-2) at Hard Rock Stadium.
“It’ll be great to finally play against the guys live for the first time,” Williams said Wednesday. “I still have a lot of friendships and communication with those guys. So I’m sure it will be interesting.”
Perhaps this game comes at a good time for Williams. The four-time Pro Bowler is off to a slow start with the Dolphins. He has just eight tackles and one sack in six games, and playing against an old team could bring back Williams’ old form.
Miami’s coaching staff wasn’t happy with Williams’ prior performance in Week 5 against the Tennessee Titans, particularly against the run. Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph suggested that Williams needed to “play harder,” and there were similar effort questions in Buffalo last season.
Williams came off the bench for the first time in his 11-year NFL career in Week 6 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He played just 15 snaps and recorded one tackle.
“I mean, that was different,” Williams said. “But at the same time, what I’m asked to do is what I’m asked to do. You just go out there and play and try to capitalize on the opportunities you get.”
The Dolphins hope playing his former team gives Williams a much-needed spark.
“I think every guy is different,” Dolphins head coach Adam Gase said. “Some guys look at these types of games if it’s their former team and they just want to make sure they play really well and there’s a little added intensity. Plus, when you’re with a certain group as long as you ... obviously, [Williams] was there long enough to have relationships with a lot of those guys.
“He knows, probably, some of the strengths, some of the weaknesses, and that gives you a little bit of an edge, because you at least know how they do certain things [and] you see a lot more things, because you practiced against them every day.”
Williams said he still has friends on the Bills but didn’t care to dig too deeply into what went wrong during his final season. His goal is to turn his current season around with his new team.
The Dolphins currently have the NFL’s 26th-ranked defense and the group needs to step up to get more wins.
“By all means, I’ve got to get better regardless,” Williams said. “Not even talking about the fact of that, I’ve just got to get better. I think that each and every one of us has to do the same in order for us to get to where we want to be at.”