The Arizona Cardinals didn’t win much when defensive tackle Dan Williams joined the team. They finished 5-11 in 2010 and again in 2012, sandwiching an 8-8 record between them.
The Cardinals turned a corner the last two years, going 10-6 and 11-5 with a playoff appearance.
Williams knows firsthand how a franchise gets back on the winning track. He believes the Raiders can follow a similar arc.
Williams says a new coaching staff led by Jack Del Rio prompted him to sign a four-year, $15 million contract this offseason and anchor a run defense that needed toughness up the middle.
It’s that coaching staff that gives Williams faith the Silver and Black will rise again.
“I don’t know how the Raiders were before I got there, but just the fact that the coaches we have now – these guys have a great plan,” Williams said in an interview with SiriusXM NFL radio. “They pretty much laid out the foundation, and now it’s pretty much on the players to buy in. We’ve been doing a great job so far at buying in to what they want us to do.
“In Arizona, we had talent. But it took good coaching to show us how good we could be. We have talent here. The guys respect the coaching staff and are ready for change.”
There are changes in personnel and changes in scheme. A new-look Raiders defense is on its way, a meld of defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.’s experience in Seattle and Del Rio’s defensive philosophy.
Williams should have a large role this season, albeit a different one from recent seasons. He used to play nose tackle in Arizona’s 3-4 defense, and he’ll be a 4-3 defensive tackle for the Raiders. He’s still expecting to play over the center and guard and be a stout player in the base defense who makes others better.
Williams is excited about the scheme and his role in it.
“The did a great job from what we’ve been running, and making sure everybody understands where they need to be, and just the energy that both coaches bring every day in the defensive room. I think it’s great for us and it’s going to play to everybody’s strengths.
“We have different pieces to use in different situations, and you can definitely tell that they put a lot of hard work in before we got on the field. As a player, I’m excited to play in the system and I’m sure the fans will be happy with the product we put on the field.”
Williams missed most of the offseason program with an undisclosed injury – he was involved in the mandatory minicamp Jun 9-11 – but already has a positive impression of his new teammates.
“You hear things about these guys all the time, but you get a different perspective on the practice field,” Williams said. “You have respect for these guys, but you can tell that they’re all hard workers who compete each and every day.”