Mario Williams says he has never felt better.
The Bills' defensive end was in vintage form Sunday, hunting for Panthers quarterback Cam Newton on every snap. Williams, the No. 1 overall pick in 2006, had a career-high and team-record 4.5 sacks in Buffalo's last-second, 24-23 win.
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After a preseason interrupted by a foot injury, Williams is back, it seems, both mentally and physically.
Jets players maintained Monday that they have nothing but respect for the two-time All-Pro. But Antwan Barnes said there's no chance that Williams, the NFL's sack leader, will post those same numbers against the Jets on Sunday.
"It's the Panthers we're talking about," the Jets' outside linebacker told Newsday with a laugh. "Obviously, he's a first-round pick, they pay him so much money, so he's got to go out there and do something. For our O-linemen, it's the same. They go against us every day. They won't be scared or intimidated by it."
Since he entered the league, Williams' 68 sacks (in 100 games) are sixth behind DeMarcus Ware (105), Jared Allen (98), Julius Peppers (71), Robert Mathis (69) and John Abraham (68.5).
Williams signed a six-year, $96-million contract (with $50 million guaranteed) before last season. He has 18 tackles and two sacks in five games against the Jets, with the Texans, who drafted him, and the Bills.
The Jets' offensive line struggled in the first two games, allowing nine sacks of rookie Geno Smith for a loss of 67 yards. The Dolphins' Ryan Tannehill also has been taken down nine times, two behind Brandon Weeden of the Browns.
And Williams will make it his mission to harass Smith, just as he did with Newton.
"He's one of the premier defensive ends in the league," right tackle Austin Howard said. "He has a lot of talent and you really have to focus in on the game film and really study his techniques. He does a lot of things well."
Much of this week's focus will be geared toward stopping the "hybrid" defense of Bills coordinator Mike Pettine, who served in the same capacity for Rex Ryan and the Jets from 2009-12. And to replicate the speed and power moves of Williams in practice, Howard said "they'll switch it up" by using speedy linebackers Ricky Sapp and Barnes, as well as Muhammad Wilkerson.
"He shows good power moves and you can just work off him," Howard said of Wilkerson.
Bruce Smith (1990, '94) and Cornelius Bennett ('87) were the last Bills to record four sacks in a game. It took 18 games with Buffalo for Williams to eclipse them both.
"Physically, I feel great," he said. "And mentally, I'm better than ever."
Barnes knows the Jets have no choice but to double-team Williams. But don't expect him to have another career day at MetLife Stadium, he added.
"No, not at all," Barnes said. "Not on my O-line."