Jets' Ferguson ready to get a lot closer with Texans' Williams
November 23, 2006 8:37pm CST
D'Brickashaw Ferguson first met Mario Williams early in their college careers. The two were reacquainted a few months ago at the NFL draft. They're The New York Jets' rookie left tackle will be engaged in one of the more intriguing matchups Sunday when he lines up against the Houston Texans' defensive end. "I'm going to practice and prepare as if I'm going against Jason Taylor or anybody else I would face," Ferguson said in his usual soft, even-keeled tone. "I think he's a very talented athlete and I have to prepare accordingly." Ferguson was the No. 4 draft selection out of Virginia in May, going to the Jets three picks after the Texans chose Williams out of North Carolina State. After last facing each other as sophomores in college, both were in New York on draft day and spoke briefly during the event. "I don't think our focus at that time was, 'I want to go against you in the future,"' Ferguson said. "We were just happy for each other getting the opportunity to play in the National Football League and support each other." Not surprisingly, both players have had moments of inconsistency in their rookie seasons. Ferguson has mostly held his own each week facing some of the best pass rushers in the game, including Miami's Taylor, Indianapolis' Dwight Freeney and New England's Richard Seymour. "Every week, I'm going to have a matchup," Ferguson said. "For me, that's what I've come to expect -- that's what I know. Next week or the week after, you can ask me the same exact question and I'll still be here saying, 'Well, I've got another quality opponent I have to go against.' But I know that every week, I'm going to get somebody who's at the top of their game." Although he isn't exactly in that class yet, Williams still presents a daunting task for offenses. He has 28 tackles and leads Houston with 4 1/2 sacks, but has been struggling with an inflamed arch the past few weeks. He was listed as probable on the Texans' injury report Thursday, although he didn't fully participate in practice. Williams has also had to deal with the overwhelming expectations that come with being a No. 1 overall pick -- especially when so many fans were hoping the Texans drafted Reggie Bush. "He went through a three- or four-week span where he played really well," Houston coach Gary Kubiak said. "I don't want to say that's dropped off the last two weeks, but he has struggled physically." Jets coach Eric Mangini said Williams might also line up against veteran Anthony Clement on the other side of the field at times. "Mario moves around a little bit, so it won't necessarily always be with D'Brickashaw," Mangini said. "He would be working against both Brick and Anthony, so both guys need to get ready for that." At 6-foot-6 and 312 pounds, Ferguson is considered somewhat small when it comes to offensive tackles. Mangini jokingly said Thanksgiving might present a good opportunity for Ferguson to add some extra padding. "I've got to find out what kind of turkey he's eating," Mangini said with a big smile. "He should fry his turkey. I should suggest that." Because of the nature of the role left tackles have -- they have to protect the blind side of the quarterback -- their play is crucial to the success of an offense. A positive sign has been that Ferguson's name hasn't been called too often during games for failing to make blocks or for committing penalties. He still acknowledged he needs to get better in certain areas. "When I watch the tape, I just look at plays that I've improved upon as far as execution's concerned," he said. "Obviously, at this point in the season, you feel more comfortable with the material that's being given to you. My success or my improvement just comes with improving upon my game overall. I might not have catches or anything like that, but everybody can look at their technique and look at their game and say, 'Oh, look at what I'm doing now,' so I'm happy about that."