Broncos wasted no time getting D.J. Williams into the lineup

The Broncos worked D.J. Williams into the lineup quickly. He was in uniform against San Diego in the first game after his reinstatement from two suspensions.
And Williams entered Sunday's game against San Diego on the fourth defensive snap — it was when the Broncos went to the nickel (five defensive backs) for the first time in the game. Williams lined up alongside Wesley Woodyard in the two linebacker spots in that formation.

That was Williams' role, for the most part, in the defense for the remainder in the game and he was in the lineup primarily on first or second down (he had 15 snaps in that situation).

When the Broncos faced a more open formation from the Chargers offense, like a three-wide receiver set, or were in third-down or other long-yardage situations, they put rookie Danny Trevathan next to Woodyard in the nickel.

The Broncos like Trevathan's abilities in coverage while Williams gives them a little more bulk in the middle of the field on early downs, when a running play is more of an option for an offense. That figures to be the rotation in the near future.

The Broncos also used a four-linebacker set for a selection of snaps Sunday with Williams in the game and he also played in the team's short-yardage unit that was used against the Chargers in some third-and-short looks. In all Williams played 21 snaps.

The Broncos said they didn't have concerns about Williams' conditioning Sunday that he had done the work in his time away and it showed by how quickly they worked him in.

"He was pumped up and ready to go" — is how Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey put it — "It was like he never left."

Before Williams was suspended, the expectation at that point was that he would be a starter with Woodyard as his backup on the weak-side — the defensive side away from the offense's tight end. But Woodyard now leads the team in tackles and Sunday alone had eight tackles, to go with an interception, a tackle for loss and a fumble recovery.

His three interceptions also lead the team.

And Von Miller is in the hunt for Defensive Player of the Year honors, so Williams isn't moving Woodyard or Miller out of the lineup. He could, if the Broncos like his progress, move into the middle in the base defense in place of Keith Brooking.

But that scenario is unlikely given after Williams started at middle linebacker for the Broncos in 2007 — he had a career-best 170 tackles that season — he often said following the season he believed he was better suited at one of the outside spots in a 4-3 defense.

Fox and Del Rio have each praised Brooking's anticipation and preparation as well, so it's difficult to see how moving him out of the base defense is something they would want to do at this point. As always injuries could force their hands in some fashion, but Williams is likely a rotation player right now.

"I'm just glad to be back in there," Williams said. "When you're just in the locker room you really don't feel like you deserve to be there until you can go out and contribute in some way."

The Chiefs, for all of their offensive failings this year, most notably turnovers and quarterback play, do have the No. 4 rushing attack in the league this season - 145.4 yards per game - and they are also fourth in the league in rushing attempts, at 31.9 per game, so Williams would see more snaps in those early-down nickel packages this coming Sunday than he did in the win over the Chargers.

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