ORCHARD PARK NY - NOVEMBER 28: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers escapes the rush while Chris Kemoeatu #68 holds Kyle Williams #95 of the Buffalo Bills during the game at Ralph Wilson Stadium on November 28 2010 in Orchard Park New York. (Photo by Karl Walter/Getty Images)
"Kyle Williams might be the beneficiary of this scheme in a positive way as much as anybody, because he’s not a 320-pounder, but he is as athletic as anybody as we have on the defensive line. I’m excited to see him once we get going. I think that he’s going to have a chance to make some plays and he will. He’s gone to the Pro Bowl." - Dave Wannstedt in May 2012
Every year here at Buffalo Rumblings, we run a summer series in which we talk about the ten most important Buffalo Bills players entering a given season. Where in past seasons we've focused the series on guys that needed to perform if the team was going to succeed, this year's focus will just be on the team's ten players most likely to directly influence the team's successes or failures in 2012.
Next up on the list: defensive tackle Kyle Williams, who hopes to return to Pro Bowl form after his 2011 season was cut short by injury.
2010 was Kyle Williams' break-out season. He'd shown signs of a break-out the year prior in 2009, when he recorded four sacks, but he really hit his stride with his 5.5-sack campaign a year later in which he had several utterly dominant performances, most notably a game against eventual Super Bowl runner-up Pittsburgh.
After the team added Marcell Dareus in last year's draft, Williams was supposed to reach new heights playing alongside a highly talented Top 5 pick. Instead, a long-existing issue with bone spurs flared up early in the season, putting his Achilles tendon on the brink of rupture. Buffalo shut Williams down after just five games, and he had surgery to remove the spurs and repair the Achilles that he's only just returning to full health from.
Full health will be key for Williams, who is expected to be full go by the time training camp starts. Also key: the new 4-3 scheme that Dave Wannstedt is currently installing, which will make much better use of Williams' quick, penetrating style than the defense that George Edwards ran ever did. Dareus is still around, too, and expected to be much better, as well. Enough is in place to reasonably expect that a fully healthy Williams will return to Pro Bowl form.
He'll need to. This is the second consecutive defensive lineman I've put on this list, and for good reason: Buffalo's defense will go as its defensive line goes, and Buffalo needs a competitive defense this season, so they'll need their highly-touted defensive line to perform. Williams is an integral part of that happening, because he's proven that he can be a catalyst for this team.