Broncos Need Major Leap From Young Defensive Line


When the Denver Broncos and much of the rest of the NFL decided the investment in Terrance Knighton wasn’t worth it, they put a lot of pressure on their own shoulders as far as player development goes, specifically along the defensive line.

While I think John Elway gets a raw deal sometimes from pundits who analyze the draft, it’s fair to question or criticize his 2013 class, which featured Sylvester Williams, Montee Ball, and Kayvon Webster at the top.

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So far, every single one of those guys has been slow to develop in the NFL, though we’ve seen flashes from all. With a new emphasis on the development of young players, however, the defensive line won’t be able to afford just a ‘flash’ from Williams anymore.

He’s going to need to show he can be the man in the middle the Broncos expected him to be when they drafted him in the first round.

Williams, going into the draft, was known as a guy with great size, speed, power, quickness, and strength. He was a physical marvel on ESPN’s Sports Science, which obviously means nothing if it doesn’t translate to the field, as he has well proven to this point.

Sly Williams is still a young player. He is going to be entering his third NFL season and the pressure for him to perform has never been greater. The Broncos have allowed everything on the defensive line to flow initially through Terrance Knighton, who helped clog running lanes and lead the Broncos to one of the top ranked units in the league.

With Bill Kollar hired now for the defensive line, the Broncos have someone in the fold with a reputation for developing some of the league’s best. In the case of Houston’s J.J. Watt, he helped develop the very best in the NFL today.

I’m not going to sit here and proclaim that Sly Williams is the next J.J. Watt, but having Kollar coaching the defensive line and playing the nose tackle position in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defensive alignment could prove to be very beneficial for the former Tar Heel.

Williams needs a breakout season in the worst way. He’s not proven to this point worthy of his draft slot, which a lot of fans questioned at the time anyway. Now, the Broncos are going to rely heavily on him this season to perform, along with Malik Jackson and Derek Wolfe.

By the way, Jackson and Wolfe are both former John Elway draft picks who have turned out to be very good players at their respective positions. There’s no doubt in my mind Williams is capable of ascending in year three, but he’s got a lot to prove.

Maybe the Broncos will draft someone high to play nose tackle and it will reveal a lack of faith in Williams, but at this point in the offseason, the fact that he is firmly penciled in as the starting nose tackle is all you really need to know about what they think of him. They let Terrance Knighton leave at a pretty reasonable price, and decided Williams was the way they wanted to go.

Hopefully, they are rewarded for their patience with him.

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