Broncos LB D.J. Williams eager for new role
AP Sports Writer
DENVER, Colorado” The Denver Broncos value D.J. Williams’ versatility at linebacker even if at times it’s vexing for him.
This season, he’ll be asked to relocate to another new linebacking spot, his fourth change in six seasons.
But he’s not grumbling because Williams feels like he just landed a plum position. With Denver switching to a 3-4 formation, Williams will play inside and away from the tight end.
That frees him up to roam around, react and wreak havoc.
“I love my position,” Williams said Wednesday on Day 2 of the Broncos’ passing camp. “I think the position highlights what type of player I am. It allows me to do what I do best.”
Since he was drafted by Denver in 2004, Williams has bounced around from one linebacker spot to another, just depending on which defensive coordinator wanted him where in their particular scheme.
He’s enjoyed his time at middle and weakside linebacker, detested his stint at strongside. That’s one spot he never wants to play again.
Williams was moved to strongside linebacker in 2005 to make room for Ian Gold, and didn’t have much fun. In that position, Williams came out on passing downs.
“As long as I don’t have to go back to Sam (strongside), they can put me anywhere,” Williams said.
Under new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, Williams will have more flexibility to make reads. When asked to give an overview of his duties, Williams grinned and said, “Go to the ball and make plays.”
Sounds similar to what Nolan allowed Ray Lewis to do when Nolan was in charge of the Baltimore Ravens’ defense.
“I’m enjoying what it is so far,” Williams said.
And that’s been all of one day.
Williams wasn’t cleared to participate in team drills until Wednesday. He’s been recuperating from offseason surgery to fix his right rotator cuff.
“It went pretty well, still a little rusty,” he said of his first day back.
Williams said the shoulder injury really didn’t bother him much during the season.
No, what bothered the Broncos co-captain was a partially torn MCL in his knee that sidelined him for five games ” not to mention the disastrous play of the defense.
The Broncos finished at or near the bottom in every major defensive category, contributing to the team blowing a three-game lead with three to go and failing to make the playoffs. That ultimately led to the firing of Mike Shanahan, a coach Williams was sorry to see go.
“He’s a great coach,” Williams said. “Honestly, I put that on the players more than anything … You can do all the coaching you want, but the players still have to play the game.”
Williams realizes a dark cloud looms over a disappointing defense that surrendered 448 points last season. It’s even guilt by association for newly signed free agents such as defensive backs Renaldo Hill, Brian Dawkins, Andra Davis and Andre Goodman.
“We’ve got 10 or 12 guys that have chips on their shoulders that weren’t even here (last year),” said Williams, who was the team’s second-leading tackler in 2008. “They just take the burden of what we did last year on them.”
Hill said the reputation of Denver’s defense wasn’t exactly flattering, especially the play of the secondary.
“I was hearing it wasn’t a good year,” he said. “A lot of injuries, a lot of deep balls going over the head. That’s just the perception I heard.”
Now that he’s here, Hill has a different take.
“We should be the top secondary in the league,” he said. “I don’t think anyone is expecting anything less. That’s how we’re approaching it. We all hold each other accountable and are expecting to be that.”
Broncos defensive lineman Kenny Peterson has already flipped the page on last season, preferring to forget all about the past.
“You can’t worry about what the defense did last year. This is a new era, a new coaching staff, a new philosophy, a new everything,” he said. “Pretty much what we did last year is null and void. You can’t even count it. We have new faces, new everything. New is the word of the day.”
Williams definitely knows that as he’s relocating to another new position. So far, he likes the construction of this defense.
“We had talent last year, but because of injuries and things like that ” a play here, a play there ” things didn’t go too well,” Williams said. “This year, we see it as a chance to make that up.”
When Flacco drops back to pass, he earns respect without uttering a word, by displaying a gift that’s rare, even at the NFL level.