Buffalo Bills Mailbag, 1/28: Should Aaron Williams Play Safety?

Rick Stewart

Buffalo Rumblings answers questions from Bills fans regarding Aaron Williams playing safety, trading for Alex Smith and Mario Williams' expectations in 3-4 looks.

As we catch up after an unexpectedly busy late-January weekend, we had enough good commentary going on via Twitter and in my email inbox that a quick Q&A session, mailbag style, is suddenly necessary. Keep the good questions rolling in, Buffalo Bills fans - and while I'm going to answer with my own opinions, we'd love to hear yours in the comments.

Any talk of moving Aaron Williams to safety? He seems to struggle on the outside. Wasn't he a safety coming into college? (Brian on Twitter)

Yes, Williams played safety in high school, but Texas recruited him as a cornerback, and that's what he played collegiately. In the lead-up to the 2011 NFL Draft, many of the notable "experts" - Mel Kiper in particular - went on record saying that they thought Williams should play safety, where some notable athletic limitations would not be as prevalent as they would if he stayed at corner.

Moving Williams to safety is still an option; he's got the size to do it, and it'd be interesting to see how he'd operate as a center fielder and an in-the-box run support player (the latter of which he's already very good at as a corner). Right now, however, Williams is Buffalo's No. 2 cornerback - and that's not likely to change unless significant personnel changes occur at that position.

What's your take on Buffalo getting Alex Smith in a trade, given the less than stellar draft class this year? (A.L. via email)

We know what kind of offense that Doug Marrone and Nathaniel Hackett want to run - one that can go up-tempo at the drop of a hat, one that can spread the field, and one that is wide open. At his best in the NFL (i.e. the 2011 and early 2012 seasons under Jim Harbaugh), he's run a fairly conservative, buttoned-down offense with the San Francisco 49ers. That's worked for him; while I think Marrone and Hackett could make it work in Buffalo, I'm not keen on the idea of the Bills trading anything for a quarterback that doesn't necessarily mesh with the style of offense that the team wants to implement.

But then, the flip side of the argument would be if that's the best quarterback they can find, they should obviously go get him. I just don't think that is the case.

If my old memory is correct, didn't the Bills run a 3-4 type of front way back, and didn't Bruce Smith lead the league in sacks almost every year as an end in a three man line? Why couldn't Mario Williams be productive as an end with Marcell Dareus at NT? (Matt via email)

Your memory serves you well, Matt: Smith played end in a 3-4 base defense, and he was obviously really productive in that role. It was not a pure two-gap 3-4 defense, however; the Bills played a lot of under, one-gap fronts back in those days to free Smith up a little bit more. It's not dissimilar to the type of defense that Wade Phillips has run for years (and, if you recall, Phillips coached Smith for a while), and which is making J.J. Watt so productive now.

Williams is a different cat than Smith; his game is more of a finesse game, as he's not nearly as physical at the point of attack as most dudes his size. If the Bills fold 3-4 looks into their defense next season - and all indications are that Mike Pettine plans on doing exactly that - you should expect Williams to stand up as a pass-rushing outside linebacker in those looks.

As for Dareus at nose tackle - he can do it, but he'll be at his best moving around, taking advantage of different matchups with his diverse skill set. In 3-4 looks, I'd expect him to be an end.

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