DeShawn Williams has a unique way of looking at NFL football starters - “there are no ones and twos,” only guys ready to play and guys not ready to play.
For the former Clemson defensive lineman who went undrafted in 2015 and then bounced around four different NFL teams before landing at the Broncos in this bizarre season, Williams knows he can play and he and his fellow “backup” linemen are all proving it.
With veteran starters Jurrell Casey and Mike Purcell lost to injury this season and Shelby Harris going on his fourth week on the COVID-19 reserve/injured list, Williams - along with DeMarcus Walker and Dre’Mont Jones - have all stepped into a starting role that they proved last week they could handle.
“In the NFL, there’s no ones and twos. Everybody’s a starter,” Williams told Ryan Edwards and Benjamin Allbright earlier this week on Broncos Country Tonight. “We have a couple guys down for the year, so we took upon ourselves to have no dropoffs. The Broncos picked [us] for a reason, so our confidence is just growing week to week.”
The chemistry between Williams and his fellow new starters is growing too and Williams attributes that to the devotion of all of them to play better.
“Dre is just doing a great job of being more of a leader with Jurrell, Mike and Shelby being out. DWalk is just out there having fun, starting the way he did last year but he wants to finish it this year. Sly, he’s a former champion so he knows how to get it done and he gives us little gems and stuff,” Williams said, adding that for himself, it’s motivation to stay a Bronco. “Me, I just want to do my job to the fullest. I don’t want to let anybody down because Bill [Kollar] brought me back; Elway brought me back, and Vic too.”
But probably the biggest motivator for all of them last week was having two bad games prior and deciding to make a difference against Miami.
“We pride ourselves on stopping the run and to have 200 yards on us [in the Raiders game], you just got to look yourself in the mirror and say, ‘What are you doing? C’mon, it’s time to step it up,’” Williams said of the defense. “It was a working man week of practice because we know the last two games we weren’t playing to our capability. To come out on the field and have it work the way it did, to get six sacks, it was great.”
Going up against Taysum Hill, a “gadget player” for the Saints who will be gadgeting at QB this week for an injured Drew Brees, as well as trying to stop Alvin Kamara, Williams knows the line is going to be tested.
“Man, it’s going to be a difficult task,” Williams said, adding that “it sucks” Drew Brees is hurt because he looks forward to going up against “a legend.” “But Taysum, he’s a freakish athlete, so we have to be ready for him throwing and running.”
Alexander Johnson joined Broncos Country Tonight this week as well and told the hosts the key for him and Josey Jewell to stopping Kamara is “to be on their keys.”
“He’s an elite back. He’s good at running and catching so the biggest thing is playing your leverage and closing space on him,” Johnson said, noting the Saints do a lot of screens to Kamara. “We have be there before he can even get the ball or in his face as soon as they throw him the ball.”
Safety Kareem Jackson offered a similar projection when speaking to Denver media on Wednesday - everybody has to pay attention to Kamara.
“They use him in a lot of different ways. He’s in the backfield carrying the ball, they throw it to him out of the backfield and they line him up in different spots, as you can see. They do a lot of different things with him,” Jackson said. “For us as a defense, it’ll be a huge key for us to know where he is at all times and what they like to do with him when he’s in those different spots. He’s very explosive with a lot of speed. He’s a great back.”
And then, of course, there’s the passing game with Michael Thomas and former Bronco Emmanuel Sanders to be worried about.
But that’s a challenge Jackson is looking forward to.
“I’m definitely looking forward to it. I’m always looking forward to a challenge. The two guys you named have been good receivers in this league for awhile now. Any time you get a chance to see guys like that, you have to be on your ‘A’ game as a collective unit,” Jackson said. “They move those guys around a lot, and they run some different scheme things with them to try and get them in different spots and get them open. I’m looking forward to it. We know as a group, it’s a huge challenge for us. Sunday, we have to be up for the task.”
Luckily for Jackson, he’ll have fellow safety Justin Simmons helping him out.
“Justin sucks,” Jackson joked. “I’m just playing. To be honest, I think he’s gotten better. We all know how good he was last year. For him to take strides and be even better this year just shows what type of guy and what type of player he is with the work he puts in in the offseason. It’s a luxury for us to have him on this defense and him patrolling the backend with the ability that he has. It definitely makes my job easier as well as the rest of the guys on defense. It’s incredible to play alongside him and to see him in live action and the things he does on a week-to-week basis.”
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