Before Mario Williams had wrist surgery prior to the team's Week 8 bye, Buffalo Bills fans were already referring to the richest defender in NFL history as one of its most colossal busts, as well. To an extent, that rhetoric was earned; Williams recorded just 3.5 sacks in the team's first seven games and was more often a post-game afterthought than a difference-maker on the field.
That has changed in the four games in which Williams has played since having that surgery. Williams has five sacks in those four games - including at least one sack in three of the four contests, and three in Sunday's loss to the Indianapolis Colts. In short, he has been much closer to the dominant force that fans (and the team) expected him to be when he signed a six-year, $96 million contract with $50 million guaranteed in March.
There is, of course, still room for improvement. Williams' 8.5 sacks through 11 games ties him for No. 11 in the NFL, and is already the highest single-season sack total for a Bills player since Aaron Schobel recorded 10 in his final year with Buffalo in 2009. But it's also worth pointing out that as Williams has improved, so has the effectiveness of not just his defensive line mates, but the defense as a whole.
Prior to their bye week, the Bills were 424 yards and 30.4 points per game (a figure that does not include defensive and special teams scores by opponents, for obvious reasons). Since the bye week and Williams' surgery, the defense has shaved its yardage allowed to 304 per game, and they're giving up 19.5 points per game. The current rates are hardly excellent, but it can be argued that the amounts that have been shaved off since the bye are excellent - and it can also be fairly attributed, at least in part, to better play from Williams. He is, after all, the catalyst for the rest of the defense.
The extent to which fans buy into the notion that Williams' improved play has paid dividends for the defense as a whole is not, however, the point I'm making here. The point is that Williams has been significantly better since that wrist surgery, and he's just had one of the five best statistical performances of his career. This, folks, is the player that the team paid for.