- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter
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The team needs to sort through candidates for two of its four starting linebacking spots -- an outside linebacker to replace Connor Barwin, who went to Philadelphia as a free agent, and an inside guy to play beside Brian Cushing, with the team moving on from Bradie James.
In his second year, Whitney Mercilus is in line to start at weakside linebacker, where Barwin played. Brooks Reed can remain the strongside starter if an inside guy like Darryl Sharpton or Tim Dobbins seizes the inside job. Or Reed can go inside if Montgomery or Williams has a strong camp and the Texans feel best about starting one of them.
I found one twist in that, however, when I spoke to Williams last week.
I asked him about simultaneously becoming friends with and competing against Montgomery.
“He’s playing a different position now, he’s on the Will, I’m on the Sam,” Williams said. “We both compete in pass rushing, but other than that he’s basically working on honing his skills on that side of the field while I’m working on dropping back.”
Williams doesn’t know how much the team will ask him to drop into coverage, but plans on being ready when asked.
“I believe it will be more of a pass-rush deal, setting the edge at times,” he said.
Williams said he and Montgomery get along very well, that they kind of have the same personality.
“Whatever comes to our minds, we pretty much say and do,” he said.
Like Montgomery, Williams is a college defensive end shifting to 3-4 linebacker. That transition will be something to watch in the middle of the linebacker competition during training camp.
"It’s taking some time, a gradual change,” Williams said of starting plays off the line of scrimmage, standing up. “I don’t think it’s completely different than a three-point stance. It takes a lot of balance and building habits. I don’t feel it’ll be a problem, I’ll be practicing it over the next several weeks …
“The big difference is the initial attack. Usually in a three-point stance you have a more explosive attack. In a two-point stance you’re required to use a little more technique, using your arms and your footwork. It needs to be more coordinated. It’s not difficult.”
When the Houston Texans drafted Sam Montgomery and Trevardo Williams in the third and fourth rounds, respectively, they talked of giving both a chance to win the strongside linebacker spot.