Denver Broncos defensive lineman DeShawn Williams may never look back from his predicted promotion.
The Denver Broncos placed young defensive linemen Dre’Mont Jones and DeMarcus Walker on injured reserve with injuries that will last at least three weeks (in Jones’ case, up to six), and now are left with rookie McTelvin Agim and practice squad lineman DeShawn Williams for depth.
Williams is a player who has been in the NFL for some time at this point, at least for preseason action.
The Cincinnati Bengals employed Williams from 2015-18, and despite his limited regular season action over that timeframe (just four career games) he has managed to stay in the NFL after his time with the Bengals.
The Broncos picked up Williams in the 2018 offseason on a reserve/futures contract. He competed hard in the 2018 offseason and preseason, making the Broncos’ practice squad only to be removed from it nine days into the regular season schedule.
He had brief stints on the Miami Dolphins’ and Indianapolis Colts’ practice squads before again signing on as a camp body with the Denver Broncos in 2019.
Once again, he didn’t make it, but the Broncos decided to bring him back again in 2020 as a training camp body.
Having familiarity with Williams was key, and at this point his NFL career has been an up-and-down rollercoaster of basically being good enough to stick on a practice team but not quite where he needs to be for regular-season action.
Having seen Williams play in the preseason a number of times, it’s actually quite surprising that he has not stuck on an NFL roster as a rotational pass rushing defensive lineman. He is a good rusher and quick on the interior, but perhaps his game hasn’t been well-rounded enough up to this point to have a gameday role.
Even though injuries are terrible and no one wants to see them, they provide players like Williams with an opportunity to prove they truly belong, and it could be that this time around, he doesn’t look back from the promotion the Broncos are giving him.
In his only regular season action with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2016, Williams had four quarterback hits on just 57 defensive snaps.
If you were to give him a regular role in the defense (let’s say 500 snaps), those numbers extrapolated over a full season of work would be borderline other-worldly.
That would translate to 36 quarterback hits in 500 snaps if he could keep up that kind of pace. The league leader in QB hits in 2019 was Shaquil Barrett with 37, and he played almost 900 snaps.
Obviously, there are reasons why Williams is still on an NFL practice squad in his sixth NFL season. The Denver Broncos know him as well as anyone but if he can provide the type of pass rush he’s shown capable of in preseason play and in his only regular season action with the Bengals, he’s not likely to be going back to the practice squad anytime soon.