One of the most worrisome spots for the Denver Broncos this offseason has been the nose tackle position, which was recently vacated by one of the league’s best run stuffers in Terrance Knighton.
Sylvester Williams, the team’s 2013 first round pick and the top returning option at the position, was expected to be the replacement for Knighton but some have been very hesitant to be excited about that. Williams hasn’t exactly lived up to the billing he had as one of the most explosive and strong defensive linemen in the 2013 NFL Draft, and the Broncos saw 435 snaps from him last year, fifth most among defensive linemen on the team.
Williams was in rotation last year on the interior defensive line, but his role is expected to expand this year to the nose tackle position in Wade Phillips’ penetrating one-gap system, one that Williams is seemingly a perfect fit for. According to Phillips, the third year player out of North Carolina has taken the necessary steps this offseason.
“I think Sly has done an exceptional job,” Phillips said of the defensive tackle. “I feel real good about him. About four of the guys are really, I think they’re moving forward really well. I think we’ve got a group that can come in and play and do some good things for us and Sly has been exceptional. I think he’s really taken over the nose guard position. I’m really pleased with where he is.”
That’s a pretty glowing endorsement here in June, and the Broncos certainly need that force in the middle of their defense. They’ve benefit greatly from the bargain that was Terrance Knighton the last couple of seasons, and entering his third year in the league, the time for Williams to step up is right now.
With Phillips’ scheme installed and the addition of defensive line coach Bill Kollar, the added boost of confidence in Williams could be just what he needs to jump-start his NFL career. His fit has always been as a penetrating tackle, and he graded out positively last year according to Pro Football Focus on passing downs.
This season will be huge determining what the Broncos’ future at the nose guard position looks like, and obviously the hope has been that Williams can take it over and be ‘the guy’. Gary Kubiak said that Williams has had a ‘really good’ offseason and that despite concerns going into it about the position, they are excited now about what they have.
The Broncos put a huge vote of confidence in Sylvester Williams by not only letting Terrance Knighton go, but not really replacing him this offseason either. This will be his time to stake a claim as the top interior defensive lineman on the team, and it couldn’t come at a more perfect time for the Broncos.