So my girlfriend of six years cheated on me six months ago and we went through a really rough time there for a while. My family and friends knew all about it - knew all the sordid details, which made it all the tougher on me to stand proudly beside her during family functions and events. It got so bad to where she often times couldn't fulfill her job in the girlfriend role, having to stay home instead.
I kept having to hear about how I should have just dumped that dirty little Jezebel, as they called her, and really just took a lot of ribbing from everyone about my decision to stand beside her after what she did. It wasn't a good look for me, and my reputation certainly took a hit.
But we got through it, and things eventually got better. Here's where it gets tougher, though. She forgot to leave the toilet seat up yesterday and so now I'm thinking about moving on. There's a new girl that's moving into my neighborhood and I hear she's really pretty - sorta even reminds me of the girl that got away back when I was in high school.
False. Meet your cast of characters...
- John Elway... Played by me.
- DJ Williams... Played by my girlfriend.
- Al Wilson... The girl who got away.
- Coveted flavor of the week at MLB... Played by the new girl.
So my girlfriend didn't cheat, and I wouldn't have stood by her if she had, but DJ Williams did do dirt and John Elway did stand by him. Is it logical to think DJ Williams is going to be dumped now, after all we just went through with him? Did the Front Office really take it on the chin for six months only to then give up when it gets good?
Chew on that for just a bit, as we'll get back to it in more detail later. This is going to be an in-depth look at where we stand at the linebacker position going into the 2013 season.
The next Al Wilson.
We Bronco fans want to find the next Al Wilson at MLB... Just like we want to find Champ's eventual replacement, and just like we've searched for The Duke's replacement for the last 15 years or so. But these men aren't coming back. There will never be another Al Wilson. Sure, truth tastes like a rotten apple sometimes but denial tastes worse. We need to stop pining after the one that got away because he's never coming back. Like, ever.
We don't need the next Al Wilson, my friends. What we need is a Tight End Killer.
Now I'm not sure if I coined the phrase "Tight End Killer" or if I stole it from somebody, but I'm really starting to grow more and more attached to it. Continually getting Gronk'd and Graham'd and Hernandized isn't all that fun. In fact, it pretty well sucks. Oh, patent pending on those terms, too. See what I did there? Yep, you just got Gronk'd (TM).
I'm as big an Al Wilson fan as any of you out there, and I mean absolutely zero disrespect to his legacy. Still, if we're looking at MLBs in the first-round of the upcoming draft, then we need to stop looking for the last guy who loudly and proudly led a Broncos defense from that position, and instead we need to start looking for the first guy who can cover Jimmy Graham. Good luck, you say? I know and I hear you, my peeps. Loud and clear, I hear you. And yet I ask you in return, nay I challenge you in return... name me an NFL trend that has never been countered.
This too shall pass.
Blankets of sorority girls are not the only thing on earth with the ability to cover the Rob Gronkowsi's of the world. Of this I promise you. Somebody, somewhere is going to find the key to this mystery and we don't have to wait for Bill Bellichick to be that guy.
But are we really going to find a guy in the upcoming draft that can keep us from getting continually Hernandized? Well, I can't promise you that. But what I can promise you is that you won't find a TE Killer if you're instead looking for the next Al Wilson. Nothing but luv for ya Al, but it's just time to move on.
Intense leadership a la Al Wilson can get players fired up before the snap, but only a true TE Killer can actually kill Tight Ends after the snap.
Quick. It's 4th and goal from the two yard line. Your Wide receivers and everybody on the roster that can catch a ball also caught the clap and stayed home for the day. Your quarterback broke his pinky toe on the last play, so having him go all Tebow on ‘em isn't an option. You've got two running backs. One of them is a great leader. One of them has the short-yardage skillset and the talent needed for this specific situation. Who‘s going to pound the rock?
Leadership and heart, boys and girls, are a great thing and a noble idea, but Rudy Rutiger is still going to get flattened if you ask him to score in that scenario. It's not so much different when you're asking fiery thumpers to be an upgrade in coverage.
One needs not look too far back to find horror stories of teams looking for an Al Wilson type and instead ending up with a two-down run-thumper of a MLB, which is essentially a busted pick in the first-round. Rolando McClain is a perfect example that jumps off the page. Taken 8th overall in the 2010 draft by the Raiders, and very popular around here as well, McClain was roundly considered "the heart and soul of the Alabama defense" by coaches, players and fans alike. But there were hitches to his game. His elite size and intense leadership got people to ignore the warning signs about his coverage abilities... but they were there. And so he should serve as a warning bell to all of us here, too. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, and I‘m probably going to be employed by the Raiders.
Leadership will come from somewhere eventually. Trust that. Wesley Woodyard has been a Captain here for a long time. Is it really so hard to believe that he starts to lead the defense now that he's going into his second year as a starter? Maybe Von the Don will truly earn that nickname and become boss of this mafia family. Quinton Carter could become the next Brian Dawkins out at safety. Hecks, I don't know. All I know is that we shouldn't try to force it. Nothing good will come.
Blah, blah, blah.
I feel like I'm going on and on about this, so let me just summarize this part so we can move on. For this team, for this year, to upgrade this specific weaknesses... Leadership, good. Coverage skills, better. If it's not there, don't force it - not early in the draft anyway. And the easy truth is that if the prospect you're looking at wasn't dominating in coverage at the college level, then he's not going to stop us from getting Gronk'd in the NFL. Which means he's not an upgrade at what you're buying him to upgrade us at. Knowledge. Dropped.
Getting back to the broader topic here, the Broncos line-backing corps is actually a unit of strength if you ask me, and so maybe we shouldn't be so desperate to find round pegs to fit into square holes anyway. Wesley Woodyard is a stud WLB, Von Miller is a boss on the other side, and then there's the perceived hole at MLB. But is it really such a hole?
At this time of year, every year, Bronco fans look to get rid of DJ Williams somehow. This year they have more ammunition and better reasoning to do so, although it should be noted that none of it is due to his actual football skills.
DJ is our veteran pro-bowl caliber linebacker and terrific all around athlete, for those that don't know. He's best playing WLB, but he is capable of playing at any of the positions, and has experience playing all of them too. Think of it like this: DJ Williams is to MLB as Von Miller is to a 4-3 defense. I know, deep right? Both are better suited elsewhere, but both are so good at their job that they can make impact from pretty much anywhere. I'm guessing I'm going to take a bit of heat for that, but I'm good with that.
DJ isn't popular with fans, but he doesn't have that problem in the locker room or with his coaches. Williams doesn't make the bone crushing hits, he doesn't put up double digit sacks and he doesn't verbally lead the squad a al Ray Lewis. He doesn't even like talking to the media. Those are all things that get the attention of fans, but all DJ does instead is tackle everything that moves.
He's never been, nor will he ever be, a threat to win a popularity contest outside the locker room. However, every coaching staff stretching back to Mike Shanahan has loved this guy. And his teammates certainly feel the same.
Over the past year DJ was a bone head off the football field, and was out due to suspension for half the season. But the team stuck with him. And they got him back in the arena just as soon as was allowed, giving him more playing time with each passing week.
Is DJ Williams really on the outs? Is there really no plan for him on this team moving forward? Most fans have forgotten about him. Most media outlets have written him off. But don't get hit with the "they" stick.
Remember the story from the beginning? Well, maybe we should have forgiven DJ for his transgressions, maybe not. But make no mistake about it, he was forgiven. He was supported both in the Front Office and in the locker room. They stood shoulder to shoulder with him during his darkest days. And now, well now that day is dead, folks. We don't get to do that over even if you wanted to. I would argue that The Johns have already told us loud and clear that this team still has a plan for DJ. Their actions told us this, all we had to do was pay attention.
You want a new middle linebacker? DJ Williams is likely it. He's a tackling machine and he's the best coverage linebacker the Broncos have. He is an upgrade. Show me a TE Killer in the first-round, and I'm open to listening. But I don't see one.
I'm not buying the bridge "they" are trying to sell me on Manti Teo either - that his draft stock plummeted to the 2nd round due to him getting Catfished. We've all seen this movie before, no pun intended, and we know how it ends. I'm guessing his stock will magically surge again before the draft. Oh, and boy gets girl. The End.
Now if you don't pay close attention here, it could seem a bit like I'm saying things that are at odds with each other. I'm saying I want a TE Killer. I'm saying a solution can be found. And yet, I'm saying we can't find one so forget about it. Well, sort of. I'm saying that if we don't see a TE Killer in the first-round - which I personally don't see, as of yet - then there is no other reason to kick DJ to the curb or to look for a new starting MLB. Say it with me, everybody: DJ Williams is already an upgrade at the MLB position. And there is also more than one way to skin a Patriot, of which I have another idea I'll be getting to in my next post.
Wesley Woodyard, DJ Williams and Von Miller is a trio that more than 25 teams would trade theirs to have ours. Don't believe me? Name three....
This is a young group of starters with absolutely blazing fast speed and with no real weaknesses. In fact, I'll bet you a talking dragon that none of your favorite prospects at the combine can outrun any of my starting linebackers - all three of which three have run the 40 yard dash in the 4.4s. Um, ya. That's not normal.
Further down the depth chart, last year's rookie Danny Trevathon (backup WILL) showed a ton of promise in his first year, and then we've got the eerily silent Nate Irving backing up the SLB position. (Knock, knock. Nate, my dude, hello in there?) Further down the list, it's unlikely that Joe Mays will be back at MLB for $4M per year, and then Keith Brooking is also a question mark.
As for what we need to add, let me just sum it up by saying any TE Killer available at any position is a game-changer and a rule-breaker. Whether it's a corner, a safety or a linebacker, and without regard to what round of the draft we‘re talking about... if you're sure he can do the job, and if he represents the greatest impact at that draft slot, then let's grab him up. Nobody is going to mock you for mocking him (get it? Man, I kill me).
That said, our noble quest for a TE Killer is not the same as us needing a new starting MLB. It's just not.
DJ Williams can play MIKE for us next year. And he'll like it. He'll do it for The Johns, and he'll probably have his best year as a pro while doing it. He'll stand and deliver for them because, for one, they stood up for him, and for two, because DJ Williams actually has the skill set to do it.
If I turn out to be wrong on DJ Williams, then you could pretty much throw out this entire post and chalk it up to being meaningless blabber. The entire strategy would change. This is the third post in three years I've written defending DJ, though. And he hasn't failed me yet.
BroncoMath101 wrote a post the other day about Brad Jones, a backup linebacker for the Green Bay Packers, and it's certainly worth a read. Another guy that recently caught my eye is Washington Redskins backup linebacker Rob Jackson. There's a comment of mine in that FanPost describing a bit about him and asking if others know more details. What these men have in common is that they're young, affordable and excellent in coverage. One is a Free Agent, one of them is restricted, but neither of them would represent a major commitment. These are the type of guys I think we're likely to look at to fill out our depth.
Now if you're still a little bit scared of the big bad Gronkowski and fear that I haven't yet done enough to stop him, well fear not my fantastic fellows... I'll be spending our first-round draft pick in the next installment and it should help to keep that overgrown frat boy home where he belongs. Looking forward to your thoughts...