Posted Sun Jul 8th by Jon Heath
Ever since iTweetGate, fans have become increasingly adamant that nine-year linebacker D.J. Williams should be shipped out of town. In one of our recent polls, 55% of fans voted in favor of D.J. being taken out of the starting lineup all together.
My response has been that the team values D.J.’s on-the-field performance higher than his occasional off-the-field mishaps — meaning he’s not going anywhere. One of our top commenters on the site, Troglodyte has a different theory.
The caveman believes that Williams’ performance (piling up the tackling stats) is normal linebacker production and called D.J. a “just above average” outside linebacker. This opinion apparently is shared by Mile High Sports’ Brandon Spano.
After reviewing film from the last few seasons and looking over some in-depth stats, I stand by D.J. and my previous statements. Williams is not “just doing his job,” he is excelling at his job.
Since being selected by the Denver Broncos in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft, Williams has started every year in Denver and recorded 810 tackles, 20.5 sacks, two interceptions and forced thirteen fumbles. That’s all well and good, but linebackers are supposed to put up numbers like that, right?
Yes, linebackers are supposed to look the best on the stat sheet, but Williams has also looked good on film — and that’s more important. Over the past eight seasons (and especially over the past four years), Williams has consistently found the ball and when he does, he makes plays.
Close observers of the team say that the Broncos view Williams as one of their top defensive players and ESPN recently ranked him as the fourth-best linebacker in the entire division. Williams has played every position — strong side ”Sam”, inside “Mike” and weak side ”Will” — during his career and has the athleticism to excel at whatever task he is assigned.
Let’s take a look at Pro Football Focus‘ adjusted stats since the 2009 season:
Linebacker Pass Rush Productivity: Williams has the eighth-most QB pressures (43) among non-3-4 rushing linebackers over the past three seasons. Since 2009, Williams has rushed 305 times and has reached the quarterback 43 times, which is the twelfth-best success rate (11.56%) during that time period.
Tackling Efficiency: Williams has recorded the tenth-most tackles (304) among linebackers since 2009. During that same time period, Williams has played 3,060 snaps and has missed only 20 tackles, giving him the eleventh-best tackling efficiency rating in the NFL (16.2%).
After reviewing those statistics, it is logical to conclude that Williams has been successful as an all-around linebacker in Denver — especially in recent years. With that being the case, it is unlikely that the Broncos will pull D.J. out of the starting lineup or part ways with the veteran linebacker before his contract expires following the 2013 season.
Williams has done his job on the field and he’s been as productive as some of the best linebackers in the league. That’s what the team will consider when they make final roster cuts in September, not his ill-advised off-the-field actions. As long as Williams doesn’t get into too much trouble and keeps playing at a high level, he’ll be a starting linebacker in Denver through 2013.
Agree? Disagree? Spew your venom in the comments below.