In training camp, the LB unit was considered to be the weakness of the Broncos defense, but Wesley Woodyard, Keith Brooking, Danny Trevathan and Nate Irving had something to say about that. Woodyard leads the team in tackles, Brooking has been a solid veteran with leadership abilities, Irving comes out on fire in relief, and Trevathan, as a rookie, seems to be fitting in quite well.
So what to do with Williams? I have stated previously that it would probably be better for the Broncos to trade or release the troubled LB who is coming off two suspensions for drunk driving and giving a non-human sample for a drug test. There is no doubt the talent is there, but the off-field issues keep mounting and maybe a change of scenery would do him well.
That is not happening, though, and Williams has always made it clear that he does not like to play the middle LB position. With Woodyard having a great year on the weak side, and Von Miller on the strong side, the choices are limited. Del Rio could always switch to a 3-4 defense, but then DE Elvis Dumervil would be challenged more, and considered out of position as his size does not meld with that model. This may change though, with a left shoulder injury Dumervil suffered against the Carolina Panthers.
With the Broncos defense ranked sixth in the NFL, it is very difficult to have to tinker with the success they have built. Williams’ ability to guard against the pass and athleticism should dictate that the LB unit will improve, but I am not convinced that this will not hurt the team in the long run.
One thing for sure, is that Del Rio has been a masterful coordinator getting this Broncos squad into the top ten, and has been put in this enviable position that most coaches would love. Del Rio might have a game or two as Williams gets back in game shape. Williams has been at the team meetings during his recent three game suspension, while also taking part in preseason, but it is realistic that he will be utilized sparingly in the next two games.
The two LB’s that will be hurt the most from Williams return is Irving and Trevathan. These two have showed that they belong and have gained quality experience since Joe Mays‘ injury, especially. I look for their reps to diminish and the Broncos to settle in with a mainly four man rotation that will keep everyone fresh.
This is a danger for opponents going further, and we might even see this defense markedly improve to a spot in the top five. As the season winds down over the next several weeks, this could be a scary scenario for the AFC going forward. What was once considered the Broncos weakness, may now very well become one of the best units in the NFL.
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