Even fans who know a lot about football, and even Broncos fans that can pen 45 current team members by memory, a large majority of us still don't have a clue as to whether a jack-of-all-trades type linebacker, like DJ Williams, sucks, or if he's good. Or if he's somewhere in between.
The point here isn't to call us stupid, but rather to plant a fresh seed - to test what we think we know. Do we know what we thought we knew? Or do we simply begin to see what others have told us to see? Well, let's jump and in and talk about it a little..
If fans are told that a player, DJ Williams, makes a bunch of tackles five yards passed the LOS all the time - but that he rarely makes big plays or plays behind the line - and if it's said in a derogatory way... and if DJ doesn't give the highlight hits or the sacks that would change their minds... well, people will begin to believe it. Not at first, mind you. Well, and it wasn’t even said at first. It certainly wasn't said in 2004, when DJ was our freshly drafted first-rounder. And not in 2008, when he got his huge contract extension. We all really liked him back then. But eventually, after a few years of moving him around to different positions, and after a few years of having really bad defenses, well, the finger eventually had to be pointed somewhere. And let’s face it, DJ was always the easiest target. The 'new' had sort of worn off, just like it does with a cuddly new puppy.
DJ is expensive and rather high-profile, so it's easier to take our frustrations out on him. He's the one making all that money. He's the one that takes all that money without delivering bone crushing hits like Ray Lewis. He doesn't make the flashy interceptions like Champ Bailey. And he doesn't lead like Brian Dawkins. So what are we paying this jerk for? To make tackles five yards down the field?!? Child Please.
It's true, DJ Williams isn’t flashy, and he does make an awful lot of money for a non-sack-artist linebacker. He’s rarely going to give you a highlight hit or a truly 'wow' moment. So it’s easy not to be excited about him anymore. Some players just aren't popular. That’s just how it goes. So somewhere along the way, we start wagging that finger at DJ. We watch him drag down a tackle seven yards downfield, and we suddenly see what "they" were talking about. We then talk about it in a negative way, and it recycles. And it eventually becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Soon, DJ becomes the guy that’s expendable, often out of place, can’t cover, and racks up a bunch of tackles... but only five yards past the LOS. And that’s who he is to us now; the guy we could do with, or we could do without. He's unimportant. Eh.
DJ plays on a crappy defense, he has for years. I know, breaking news there, right? Still, I think it's important to draw attention to how bad the guys around him were. When DJ drags down a tackle five yards down the field, that's not always 'his' guy. Often, it's not his responsibility. Maybe he gets over there, a couple yards late to the party, because the closer linebacker sucks. No way, right? Yeah, way. Our linebackers were terrible. Our defense was terrible. Is it really more likely in your mind that DJ was late because he sucks, or is it because everyone around him isn't doing their job?
You know why Williams isn’t great at covering TEs? It’s because he's not a big, strong type of linebacker. I know, jaw dropping again, right? So, in other words, Captain Obvious says DJ shouldn't be covering a bunch of TEs to begin with. It's basically his kryptonite, which is why he's not a SLB. The problem for DJ has been, when you're on the field with 270lb non-fluid linebackers, like we’ve had for the past two years, you're going to find yourself in positions where you have to cover everybody.
I hear people say sometimes that DJ Williams is a liability in coverage or that he has trouble covering speedy backs and receivers. I'm not really going to address this much other than to simply say I believe it to be an extension of the echo chamber. It's like playing telephone. Somebody once said DJ has a tough time with TEs and it somehow gets fumbled around and eventually turns into him being a liability in coverage overall. It's baseless. DJ is the guy we strive to matchup against our opponent's best receiving threat that a corner isn't covering. And DJ covers receivers, not just speedy RBs. Sure, there are examples of mismatches and blown coverages, I mean he's been here long enough to have made a few mistakes. But they're certainly the exceptions, not the rule.
Look, I’m not just making excuses for a Broncos player here just for the sake of giving blind support. The fact is, most of you loved DJ Williams until he started switching positions with a new defensive coordinator every year. And I’ll be honest, hindsight is always 20/20. I’ll bet we all tried to find reason to believe that DJ could excel in a 3-4 defense. But looking back? Were we insane? It just doesn’t fit, and it never did. DJ is a finesse linebacker, not an aggressive, attacking linebacker. Just think of it this way, with only three linemen (in a 3-4), the linebackers generally need to be bigger and stronger. That’s the opposite of what DJ Williams is. That doesn't mean he couldn't play in a 3-4 and be a solid starter, because he did, and he was. It really just means it's not what he's built to play.
DJ is 6-1, 242lbs, and he’s the fastest linebacker we have. Yes, faster than the littler Wesley Woodyard, and he’s even faster than our new toy, Von Miller. (They've all run sub 4.5 times... very impressive!) DJ isn’t big enough or strong enough to be a SLB, but he’s always fit perfectly as a 4-3 WLB. And in John Fox’s new defense, well, just think about how many times you’ve heard that Fox likes small, quick linebackers – moreso than most 4-3 defenses even.
Iif you’re not sold on what to believe, then I encourage you to simply believe every regime that's been through Dove Valley since 2004. Mike Shannahan drafted DJ in the first round of the 2004 draft, then he made him a very rich linebacker four years later. So I'd say he was a big fan, no? OK, but now try this: After Coach Mike, Josh McDaniels came in as the new head coach and subsequently flipped the roster like we've never seen done before. McDaniels had no loyalties to DJ, and no obligations to him. Still, more than a year later, and with nothing to gain, he called DJ "one of my favorite players, I think, that I've ever been around". McDaniels went on raving about him for a couple minutes and ended by saying, "I think he's one of the best linebackers in pro football... because he makes such a huge impact in every phase of the game". Yeah, here's the link. Waste ten minutes. I promise, this video could sway some votes. And don't forget; this was, IMO, while DJ was playing in the worst possible system to suit his skills. (It's at the 4:40 mark of the video.)
As for this new regime, well, Coach Fox pretty much laughed at a reporter recently for suggesting DJ Williams might be an issue, with Fox simply saying "he's the least of my worries" (paraphrase from memory).
DJ Williams is home now, and this new system is where his home was always meant to be. It's time maybe we should all hug it out and accept DJ Williams for the Bronco he is – a talented and unsung linebacker that needs to learn how to call a freakin’ Cab!