The Denver Broncos have plenty of new players on the roster, but there are also plenty of familiar faces. As the Broncos make their way to the regular season, we'll analyze each player on the roster, working our way down in number as a sort of countdown.
Deshawn Williams, #99, is the first one up.
Williams was born in South Carolina on December 29, 1992. He went to high school there before going on to play for the Clemson Tigers. Towards the end of this season, he will hit the prime age of 30.
Williams started at Clemson in 2011 and saw the field some as a freshman. Unfortunately, he didn't manage to pick up any sacks as a freshman and only 13 tackles with one for a loss. Understandably, he didn't get to see the field as much as a freshman.
Williams was mostly a backup during his college career as Clemson had talent coming and going on the defensive line. However, his sophomore season was his best season, where he picked up 30 total tackles, five for a loss, and two sacks.
Williams picked up 36 total tackles, 5.5 for a loss, and two sacks in his last two years at Clemson. He was a solid part of the Tigers' rotation and entered his name into the 2015 NFL draft.
Williams didn't get an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine, but he did take part in the NFL Collegiate Bowl that year. To show how he would test, he had to wait for Clemson's Pro Day and put up decent numbers during the testing.
Alas, there wasn't enough for Williams to get his name called during the draft.
The Cincinnati Bengals signed Williams after the draft as a college free agent, and he bounced around with them between roster and practice squad from 2015-17. However, he did get to see the field for the Bengals during the 2016 season playing 57 total snaps, where he managed to pick up six total pressures.
After that, Williams bounced around in the NFL, going to the Broncos, Miami Dolphins, Indianapolis Colts, back to the Broncos, then to the Canadian Football League with the Calgary Stampeders, before joining the Broncos again for the third time.
That third time with the Broncos in 2020 was likely going to be Williams' final shot, and it turned out to be the charm. He was a late addition after being signed in the middle of August. There was a lot to overcome in the short time, and without playing in any preseason games, the road was even more challenging.
However, Williams managed to do enough to be brought back to the practice squad. After a couple of weeks, he was called up to the 53-man roster. When he got the call, he was given a role on the defensive line, immediately playing an average of 31 snaps per game from Week 3 on.
Williams had multiple splash plays, including an interception against the New England Patriots in his third game. However, what stood out the most was the consistency and reliability of his play on the line. While there would be mistakes, he often did exactly what was asked of him to help out other defenders around him.
Williams stood out against the Miami Dolphins, Las Vegas Raiders, Carolina Panthers, and that Patriots game. While he only managed five pressures and two sacks, his play and consistency as a run defender kept him on the field.
At the end of the season, Williams had 17 total pressures, two sacks, 18 stops, and one interception. So while it wasn't enough to guarantee him a roster spot in 2021, it put him in a good position to get one.
During training camp and the 2021 preseason, Williams did enough to earn a roster spot as a depth piece on the interior defensive line. He played in 15 games but averaged only 26 snaps per game. His play wasn't as consistent, and he struggled a reasonable amount before getting hurt.
In those 15 games, he picked up 14 total pressures and 14 stops while earning a measly 43.8 run defense grade from Pro Football Focus. His spot for the 2022 season has to be earned, and he may have a tough battle.
Williams likely has a tough fight for a roster spot this year. There are 10 players on the defensive line for the Broncos, and only six or seven are likely to make it. So when looking at the players cemented to make the roster, it leaves only two or three spots, as things stand right now.
It seems safe to project D.J. Jones, Dre'Mont Jones, rookie fourth-rounder Eyioma Uwazurike, and McTelvin Agim making the squad. Late-round rookie Matt Henningsen likely has a pretty solid chance as well. That leaves some competition for Williams, including Mike Purcell, for that final spot or two.
Jonathan Kongbo, Jonathan Harris, and Marquiss Spencer are the other three competing with Williams and Purcell. Considering the competition, William has about a 75% chance to make the final 53-man roster, if only six defensive linemen are kept. If Denver keeps seven, bump his chances up to 90%.
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