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2008 Denver Broncos - Breaking Down The Roster #6 --Â Linebacker

D.J. WILLIAMS (6-1, 240 / 5th Year)

D.J. Williams is a football player. That is the best compliment I can give the guy and he deserves it. A true professional, Williams has undoubtedly been frustrated by 3 positional moves in his first four years yet has handled it as a true professional. After a solid rookie year at WILL, Williams was moved to the strong side to make room for the returning Ian Gold. Lining up against bigger tight ends and being forced to shed backs was not a strong suit for Williams and he suddenly became a part-time player. After the loss of Al Wilson, the Broncos moved him to the middle. Sure, his numbers were huge, but again, having to think more, and shed blockers to get to the ball carrier limited the true impact Williams had on the game. Many of his tackles came down the field, with very little impact happening at or behind the Line of Scrimmage. A change needed to be made.

For that reason I am most excited about an older, more experienced D.J. Williams moving back to the weakside where he can play in space and make plays. Williams is a fast linebacker that relies on his speed to disrupt. On the weakside he'll be able to think less, react more, and the combination means better results for the Broncos defense. Don't get caught up in tackles and stats. Believe what you see on the field, and this season you are going to see #55 making plays where they need to be made, near the line of scrimmage.

2007 Season Notes: Led the team with 170 tackles (121 solo), including a sack (14 yds.), an interception (0 yds.), four passes defensed, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Led the team with 10 tackles (5 solo), including a sack (14 yds.) at Buf. (9/9) to help limit the Bills to 184 yards of offense. He sacked QB J.P. Losman for a 14-yard loss, knocking the Bills out of field goal range on their first drive of the game. He also recorded the 200th solo tackle of his career. Paced the club with 13 tackles (9 solo) as he played in the 50th game of his career in the home opener vs. Oak. (9/16). He added a team-leading 14 stops (10 solo) vs. Jac. (9/23). He eclipsed the 300-tackle plateau for his career during the game against the Jaguars. He led the team with 15 tackles (13 solo) – his second double-digit tackle total of the season at Ind. (9/30). Posted four tackles (3 solo) vs. S.D. (10/7). Led the team with 14 tackles (8 solo) and an interception on Sunday Night Football vs. Pit. (10/21). His interception was initially tipped by Gold before Williams secured it at Denver’s 39-yard line in the second quarter. The interception was the first by a Broncos linebacker since his interception at Tennessee on Dec. 25, 2004. Recorded seven solo tackles on Monday Night Football vs. G.B. (10/29). Led the team with nine tackles (7 solo), a forced fumble and a recovered fumble at Det. (11/4). In the fourth quarter, soon after the Broncos scored, he stripped FB Jon Bradley and recovered the fumble and returned it one yard to Detroit’s 20-yard line. It was the first fumble recovery of his pro career. Led the team with 12 tackles (5 solo) at K.C. (11/11) as the team capped the Chiefs at 67 rushing yards on 22 carries (3.0 avg.). Recorded seven tackles (5 solo) and a forced fumble on Monday Night Football vs. Ten. (11/19). Led the team with 11 tackles (10 solo) at Chi. (11/25). Paced the team with 16 tackles (12 solo) and a fumble recovery at Oak. (12/2). In the second quarter, touched down QB JaMarcus Russell for no gain. In the third quarter, scooped a botched snap at Oakland’s 35-yard line to help Denver pull within 24-20 early in the fourth quarter. Completed the game with exactly 400 tackles in his career. Placed second on the team with seven tackles (4 solo) and a pass defensed vs. K.C. (12/9) as the Chiefs were limited to 16 rushing yards and 129 total net yards. Recorded a team-high 10 tackles (6 solo) and a pass defensed at Hou. (12/13). Led the team with 13 tackles (11 solo) and a pass defensed on Monday Night Football at S.D. (12/24). Placed second on the team with eight tackles (6 solo) and a forced fumble in the season finale vs. Min. (12/30).

BOSS BAILEY (6-3, 232 / 6th Year)

Will uniting with his brother, Champ, raise the play of the younger Boss Bailey? That is what the Broncos are hoping for after making Bailey their big free agent acquisition in 2008. Bailey comes in to take over on the strong side and is an immediate upgrade, as long as he can stay healthy. Bailey has had two serious knee injuries, one in college and another in the pros. Over his 5 seasons in the League, Bailey has missed 22/80 possible games(38%). To his credit, he has played 31/32 possible games the past 2 seasons and the injury bug seems to be a thing of the past(knock on wood)

Nothing Bailey does is spectacular, and some even consider him a disappointment for a high-2nd round draft pick. I don't feel this way and tend to believe Bailey will have a huge season if put into a position to succeed. The Broncos have more talent around him, even with the questions on defense, than he ever had as a Detroit Lion. Combine that with the thrill of playing with his older brother and I think Bailey is primed to have his best season yet. His performance on the field has been trending upward, in my opinion, and a change of scenery should suit him perfectly. Keep a close eye on #97 this season.

2007 Season Notes: Bailey registered a career-high 3.5 sacks (16 yds.) along with 74 tackles (44 solo), one pass breakup, one forced fumble and a personal-best six special-teams stops in 15 games (12 starts) for the Lions... Played at the strongside linebacker position... Registered seven tackles (4 solo) at Oak. (9/9) before totaling eight stops and 1.5 sacks vs. Min. (9/16)... Had a season-high nine tackles (6 solo) and one pass defensed vs. Den. (11/4)... Had two tackles (2 solo) and three special-teams tackles vs. G.B. (11/22)... Declared inactive against Dallas (12/9) due to the flu... Returned to action at S.D. (12/16), recording eight tackles (4 solo)... Notched one sack and one forced fumble as part of a six-tackle (5 solo) effort vs. K.C. (12/23).

NIKO KOUTOUVIDES (6-2, 238 / 5th Year)

The biggest question at linebacker is Niko Koutouvides and his first shot at starting in the NFL at MLB. Koutouvides was in line for the job in Seattle until the Seahawks draft Lofa Totupu and ask most people in Seattle K-Tou can handle the job and only a Pro Bowler like Totupu is holding him back. Already a special teams ace, K-Tou will be relied upon to shore up the middle of the defense and most importantly handle the mental part of the game.

I, for one, think K-Tou is going to do a great job. Sure, he isn't as athletically gifted as his LB mates, and certainly will not make people forget Al Wilson, but he is a fundamentally sound football player, something the Broncos have lacked all over their defense. From what I have seen from K-Tou, he won't over-pursue, he won't get caught out of position, and won't run himself out of a play. We have seen plenty of that from the more athletic linebackers the Broncos lined up in the past. This heady play is most important in the middle, and while we would all love to have a guy like Brain Urlacher at linebacker there are more K-Tou types starting in the League right now than Urlacher.

I am going out on a limb to say K-Tou will maintain and win the MLB job and will go on to have a huge season for the Broncos. Again, don't get caught up in the numbers. He may not lead the team in tackles or sacks, but of the Broncos defense improves, if they can get off the field on third down, if they begin to stuff the run, K-Tou is going to be a huge part of it.

2007 Season Notes: Koutouvides led the Seahawks with 20 special-teams stops in 15 games in his fourth professional season... Recorded eight games with multiple special-teams tackles, including three contests with three specialteams stops... Totaled four tackles (2 solo) and one pass breakup on defense... Also played in the club’s two postseason games... Saw limited action at linebacker at S.F. (9/30) while posting a team-high three special-teams stops and one forced fumble on a kickoff... Had two tackles on defense at Pit. (10/7)... Made three tackles on special teams vs. Stl. (10/21)... Subbed at linebacker for Lofa Tatupu (oblique) during the second half at Stl. (11/25) and had one solo tackle... Declared inactive vs. Atl. (12/30) after injuring his knee during practice.

NATE WEBSTER (6-0, 232 / 9th Year)

After missing all but 6 games in 2004, 2005 and 2006, Webster came back with strong playing in all 16 games(13 starts) for the Broncos in '07 enjoying his best season since 2002. Webster showed alot of promise early in his career, winning a Super Bowl with Tampa before signing as a free agent with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2004. A torn patellar tendon in his right knee would cost Webster nearly three years of football before starting a couple games for the Broncos in 2006 after Al Wilson was injured.

While Webster plays with a lot of energy, at this point he is not a player the Broncos should need to rely on each and every week. Webster can fill in at any of the linebacker spots and is solid on special teams making him a valuable asset on the football team but can wear down if he is forced into an every down / every week player. Webster will likely be the #1 option in the middle should K-Tou get hurt or not perform. That weakens the Broncos, in my opinion, though Webster has proved that he is tough and can overcome. Guys with a heart like that are never bad to have on the team or in the locker room.

2007 Season Notes: Webster started a career-high 13 games with Denver and appeared in all 16 games for the first time since 2002 en route to posting the first 100-tackle season of his career with 100 stops (77 solo)... Ranked second onthe Broncos in tackles... Added one pass breakup, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery that he returned 17 yards for his first career touchdown (at K.C., 11/11)... Placed second on the club with a season-high 13 tackles (6 solo) vs. Jac. (9/23)... Led Denver with nine tackles (6 solo) on Monday Night Football vs. G.B. (10/29)...Had six stops (4 solo) and one fumble recovery, which he returned 17 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter, at K.C. (11/11)... Recorded his second double-digit tackle total of the year with 10 stops (9 solo) and one forced fumble at Oak. (12/2)... Posted a team-high eight solo tackles vs. K.C. (12/9) to help limit the Chiefs to 16 rushing yards on 17 carries (0.9 avg.) and 129 net yards... Eclipsed 200 career solo tackles during the game against the Chiefs... Reached 100 tackles for his Broncos career with three stops at Hou. (12/13)... Recorded his lone pass breakup of the year in an eight-tackle game on Monday Night Football at S.D. (12/24).

JAMIE WINBORN (5-11, 230 / 8th Year)

Winborn is another high energy guy that has become a stalwart on special teams. Winborn has always possessed alot of talent but struggled with the mental side of the game often over-pursuing and running himself out of a play. On special teams, however, Winborn has used that same aggressiveness to become a standout, filling the void when Keith Burs retired. The Broncos recently signed Winborn to an extension and I though it was a quality move. If Winborn is used correctly, he, like Webster, is an asset.

Much like Webster, Winborn suffered a strong of injuries that hampered his growth in the League. Winborn has finished three different seasons on I/R with various injuries. His play has also varied at times, frustrating coaching staff on three different teams. With Denver, Winborn seems to have taken the game more seriously and the effort seems to much more consistent. After being cut by Tampa after Training Camp in 2007, Winborn signed with the Broncos seeing action in 14 games.

Like Webster, if Winborn can be left to focus on special teams and spot linebacker duty it will be to the Broncos advantage. Anything more and things could go downhill. Still, a solid guy to have on a roster.

2007 Season Notes: Winborn played 14 games (2 starts) with Denver and led the club with 11 special-teams tackles (7 kickoff, 4 punt) while adding 24 defensive tackles (21 solo), half a sack (4.5 yds.) and three passes defensed... Competed in training camp with Tampa Bay but was released on Sept. 1 before signing with the Broncos on Sept. 11... Assumed the starting weakside linebacker position when Ian Gold injured his knee at Hou. (12/13)... Made his Broncos debut vs. Jac. (9/23) and had three tackles at Ind. (9/30)... Posted two special-teams tackles on onday Night Football vs. Ten. (11/19)... Contributed three solo tackles and one pass defensed on defense while leading the team with a season-high four special-teams stops vs. K.C. (12/9)... Filled in when Gold left the game in the first quarter at Hou. (12/13) and recorded four solo tackles... Had eight tackles (7 solo) and two passes defensed in his first start of the year on Monday Night Football at S.D. (12/24)... Contributed six tackles (5 solo), including half a sack in overtime that resulted in a lost fumble, in the season-ending win vs. Min. (12/30)

JORDAN BECK (6-2, 235 / 4th Year)

Beck is an intriguing prospect. Drafted in the 3rd Round of the 2005 draft by the Atlanta Falcons, Beck spent his rookie season on I/R because of a broken foot. He returned to the Falcons in 2006 earning his stripes on special teams. Enter Bobby Petrino and the train-wreck that ensued. Apparently Petrino didn't care for any player that was drafted by Jim Mora because we have seen alot of former Falcons suddenly become Denver Broncos.

Being drafted in the 3rd round, Beck has some ability. In college, Beck compiled a school-record 449 career tackles while adding 16.5 sacks in 44 games (43 starts) at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where he received the 2004 Buck Buchanan Award as Division IAA’s top defensive player.

In his short time with the Broncos, Beck proved his prowess on special teams finishing second on the team in ST tackles in only 11 games. Should Webster or Winborn get hurt, or be unproductive Beck could be kept on. He has a solid chance to make the team anyway because of youth and ability in kick coverage. Something to keep an eye on as camp progresses.

2007 Season Notes: Beck played 11 games (0 starts) with the Broncos after joining the club as a free agent on Oct. 16, and he finished second on the team with 10 special-teams tackles... Eight stops on kickoff coverage tied for the team high... Competed in training camp with Atlanta but was waived on Sept. 2... Posted two special-teams tackles in his Broncos debut on Sunday Night Football vs. Pit. (10/21)... Recovered an onside kick at the Lions’ 46-yard line at Det. (11/4)... Added a pair of special-teams tackles at K.C. (11/11) and at Chi. (11/25)... Made a tackle on special teams at Hou. (12/13) and vs. Min. (12/30).

LOUIS GREEN (6-3, 237 / 5th Season)

Louis Green has been a solid performer on special teams for the Broncos for the past 3 seasons. Green has yet to really make an impact on defense, and his time with the Broncos might be running out. The Broncos like Winborn and Webster, and Jordan Beck is going to get a chance to stick as well. I think Green is going to have to do something to standout if he is going to stick.

Green came into the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free-agent in 2002. The Broncos signed Green as a free-agent in 2003 and he has bounced around NFL Europe, the Broncos practice squad and the active roster for the past 5 years.

Green was a three-year starter at Alcorn State University, where he totaled 215 career tackles (114 solo) and earned All-Southwestern Athletic Conference honors. As a senior, he finished second on the team with a career-high 88 stops. He also posted a team-high seven sacks (57 yds.) that year.

2007 Season Notes: Green played on special teams only for Denver in all 16 games and ranked third on the club with nine tackles on coverage units... Tied for the team lead with eight tackles on kickoff coverage and added one stop on punt coverage... Contributed one special-teams tackle at Ind. (9/30)... Had two special-teams stops on Monday Night Football vs. Ten. (11/19) as well as at Chi. (11/25)... Posted a season-high three special-teams tackles, including one forced fumble on a kickoff return, vs. K.C. (12/9).

SPENCER LARSEN (6-2, 240 / Rookie)

The Broncos added two rookies to the LB corp, starting with Larsen who was drafted in the 6th Round of the 2008 NFL Draft. Larsen is a high-motor, high quality guy who spent 2 years on Mormon missions while at the University of Arizona. It will be interesting to see Larsen on the field. Older than most rookies, Larsen has the work ethic and mindset to succeed though it remains to be seen if he has what it takes to make it athletically.

The Broncos used Larsen at FB during team camp, leading some to believe the Broncos might be considering a position change. The move was reversed for mini-camp in June and Larsen seems to be projected as a Linebacker. Despite the less-than-stellar scouting reports, Larsen was a solid player in a very good conference. That bodes well for his chances at the next level.

If Larsen makes it out of camp he is probably a good candidate for the Practice Squad. One can never count out high character guys, however, and with the Broncos moving towards a team full of them Larsen fits in perfectly.

2007 Season Notes: Larsen was a first-team All-Pacific-10 Conference selection as a senior at Arizona after leading the conference and ranking 13th in the nation with 131 tackles (87 solo) in 12 games (12 starts)... 131 tackles were the most by a Wildcat in nine seasons (Marcus Bell, 139 tackles, 1998)... Added four sacks (35 yds.), one interception (3 yds.), five pass breakups, four fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles... Four fumble recoveries were the most by an Arizona linebacker in a season since 1993 (Akili Jackson, 5)... Earned the inaugural Pac-10 Scholar-Athlete of the Year award for football and was a first-team academic all-conference selection... Served as team captain for the second year in a row... Posted 17 tackles at Southern California (10/13) and 16 against Oregon (11/15).

WESLEY WOODYARD (6-1, 230 / Rookie)

If there is one player I am going to keep my eyes on during camp it has to be Woodyard. Sure, he's an undrafted free agent for Kentucky. I am well aware that all the scouting reports say he is a tweener - too small to play linebacker, too slow to play safety. All that stuff doesn't mean a thing to me because Woodyard is a player. There is always room for football players, real football players, on your roster.

Take a look at his college numbers. Each year, Woodyard got better and better, and it wasn't as if he was playing in some Division II conference. At Kentucky Woodyard played in the SEC against some of the best college football teams in the country, each and every week. Woodyard is fast, and while he is a bit small he hits like a guy alot bigger. Keep in mind, Bob Sanders was considered too small as well. At 5-9, Sanders was the perfect size to be the Defensive Player of the Year in 2007.

The tape I have watched of Woodyard shows me a player that knows how to get in the right position, how to use his speed to his advantage and how to avoid letting his size become a vulnerability. Will that translate into the NFL? That remains to be seen. Woodyard was a big time player in a big time conference. Chances are he'll do just fine.

College Career: Earned first-team All-Southeastern Conference honors during each of his final two seasons at Kentucky, where he played 47 career games (42 starts) and led the Wildcats in tackles during each of his last three years... Concluded his college career ranked eighth in UK history with 395 tackles (259 solo) while adding 6.5 sacks (48 yds.), two interceptions, 12 pass breakups, seven forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries... Led the SEC in tackles per game (10.6) and tied for 14th in the nation with 139 total stops as a senior that were the most by a Wildcat in a season since 1991... Posted 122 tackles as a junior that represented the second-highest total in the SEC and ranked 14th in the nation... Also had two sacks and was an academic all-conference choice that year... Garnered honorable mention All-SEC accolades as a sophomore with 100 tackles (75 solo)... Began his collegiate career as a strong safety before switching to linebacker midway through his freshman season... Earned freshman all-conference honors and became the first-ever UK freshman to serve as a team captain (for Indiana and Alabama games)

The Broncos linebacking corp is a work in progress. There is an interesting combination of youth and experience but not alot of dpeth in terms of starting talent. It seems I kept repeating, "Special Teams Player" for alot of these guys so health is going to be extremely important. I give the unit a B-/C+ with Training Camp going a long way towards easing my tensions towards this group.