As a foreword this piece when I started out I wanted to be a comparison of the two but the further I got into it the more biased I became towards DJ. Nothing against Woodyard but this turned out to be a defense of Williams more than I thought it would. I hope it will show some interesting argument points for discussion.
Let’s being with a look at the two players.
College: Miami (Fla.)
Hometown: Concord, Calif.
Experience: 8 years
40 yard Dash: 4.45 (Pro Day on indoor track) 4.54 (Outdoors)
Vertical Jump: 38
Broad Jump: 9'9"
20 Yrd Shuttle: 4.05
3-Cone Drill: 7.00
WILLIAMS AT A GLANCE:An eighth-year linebacker who has opened at least 11 games in each of his seven professional seasons for the Broncos, starting at the inside (31), strongside (29), weakside (25) and middle (16) linebacker positions.
Finished the 2010 season as the only player in the NFL to lead his team in tackles (119) and sacks (5.5) with the latter figure representing a career high.
Owns five 100-tackle seasons, including a personal-best 170 stops in 2007, along with 29 10-tackle games for his career, while ranking seventh in the NFL in tackles (475) in the last four seasons according to press box totals.
Joined by Ray Lewis (Bal.) and James Farrior (Pit.) as the only three players with at least 700 tackles and 15 sacks since he entered the league in 2004 (press box totals).
Started for the Broncos at weakside linebacker in 2004 and ‘08, strongside linebacker from 2005-06, middle linebacker in ‘07 and inside linebacker from 2009-10.
Named a Pro Bowl alternate in 2009 after starting all 16 games and ranking sixth in the AFC with a team-high 122 tackles (100 solo), including 3.5 sacks, at inside linebacker.
Did not miss a regular-season game or a playoff contest in his first four seasons (2004-07) with Denver as its only defender to see time in all 67 Broncos contests during that period.
Became the first rookie in Broncos history to lead the club in tackles with 114 stops in 2004 en route to finishing third in Associated Press NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year voting and earning Pro Football Weekly/PFWA All-Rookie honors that season.
Chosen twice (2002-03) as a Butkus Award semifinalist at the University of Miami, where he was a two-time first-team All-Big East Conference choice who helped the Hurricanes to a national championship victory as a sophomore.
Selected by the Broncos in the first round (17th overall) of the 2004 NFL Draft.
40 yard Dash: 4.51 sec
20 Yrd Dash: 2.58
10 Yrd Dash: 1.50
20 yard Shuttle: 4.25 sec
60 yard Shuttle 11.26 sec
Vertical Jump: 30
Broad Jump: 09'10"
3-Cone Drill: 7.15
WOODYARD AT A GLANCE:A fourth-year linebacker who has served as a team captain the last two seasons and has played 43 career games (9 starts) since joining the club as a college free agent from the University of Kentucky.
Leads the Broncos in special-teams tackles (35) since his rookie year in 2008, including a team-best 15 stops in just 11 games in 2010, ranking him fifth in the NFL with 1.36 special teams tackles per game.
Started Denver’s final two regular-season games in 2010, totaling 14 tackles (13 solo), including his first career sack (10 yds.), to rank second on the team during that stretch.
Registered 35 defensive tackles, one interception and nine special-teams stops, which tied for fourth on the team, in 16 games with Denver in 2009.
Was the only Bronco in 2008 to rank among the top eight on the team in both defensive tackles (54 - 8th) and special-teams stops (11 - T1st) while seeing time in all 16 games (6 starts) as a rookie.
Earned first-team All-Southeastern Conference honors during each of his final two seasons at Kentucky, where he started 42 career games and had three 100-tackle campaigns.
Entered the NFL with Denver as a college free agent on April 28, 2008.
StrengthsPositives: Instinctive player. ... Reads the action quickly and puts himself in position to make the play. ... Struggled with consistency throughout his career as an open-field tackler, but really made strides in this area as a senior. ... Rare straight-line speed for his size. ... Turned some heads at the Senior Bowl with his physical play.
Negatives: Lacks prototype lateral quickness and change of direction for a safety prospect. ... Viewed by some as a classic 'tweener who lacks the size and strength to remain at linebacker but lacks the change of direction to play safety. ... Good timed speed that doesn't translate well onto the football field due to his stiffness. ... Could struggle to find a role in the NFL.
Over their tenders with the Broncos DJ has had a total of 7 different defense coaches where as Woodyard has had four, a new one each year he has been here. One big difference is the numerous position changes that Williams has had to endure. Williams has only played the same position in consecutive years once. He has moved around between the three linebacker positions and the ILB positions of the 3-4 continuously. He has never had the opportunity to focus on a single position and succeed at it. He has never had the chance to better himself at a position and learn it. This has caused DJ to not care; he has been known not to work as hard as others or as much as he could. He relies on his athletic ability rather than working on his technique. This has caused a lot of frustration among fans because they know how good he can be if he wants to put in the effort.
Personally I can agree to this, I have felt the same way. I can see the potential there. This is key to the reason why I think DJ should stay and start. This last season DJ came out and said he has made the commitment to the sport, he is more focused and wants to win. I credit Fox, Dawkins and DJ maturing for this. Fox for encouraging DJ and wanting the best from him. Dawkins for showing him that you don’t stay in the sport for long and there is nothing like winning the Superbowl. And DJ for realizing that he is getting older, his time is limited and he wants to leave a legacy. It showed this year, his gaps and assignments where better. He still made some mistakes but is learning and his best is still ahead of him. That is right, his BEST is still in front of him. I would keep him for that reason alone.
The next thing I looked at was the production of the two. Obviously Williams had the better production because he is a starter. But there are a few key points that I want to demonstrate that in my mind emphasis why Williams is the better player. First let’s take a look at the sack production. For these stats I looked at the last four years as Woodyard doesn’t have the amount of years that Williams does. The winner was clear in this aspect. Woodyard over the last 4 years has one sack, just one. Williams has 16.5 sacks over the last 4 years. He had 5 last year and 5.5 the year before. Over the last few years Williams has continuously gotten better in this category. Now the question you have to ask yourself is can Woodyard replace that sort of production as a starter. I don’t think so. He has never shown it before and doesn’t have the experience. Plus he isn’t that big to take on offensive linemen.
The next stat I want to bring your attention to is pass defense and I think it is key to dispelling a myth about Woodyard. Over the last 4 years Woodyard has had a total of 5 passes knocked down. 2 last year and none the year before. You compare that to Williams who has had 20 over those 4 years 2, 9, 7 and 2. Comparing these two stats it got me thinking about the role that Woodyard plays on the team. With the amount of tackles that Woodyard has I have the feeling that Woodyard plays mostly on running downs then passing downs. His lack of sacks and pass break ups would back this up. He doesn’t see much time on passing downs. What does that mean then? Am I reading too much into this? Or is Woodyard not that good in coverage and those passing downs. I do remember Dallas Clark making him look like a rookie. It is totally feasible that this is the case. Williams is not the greatest in coverage or those passing situations but he has better production than Woodyard does.
Note: I took a day to think about this paragraph and I have come to a better understanding of what the stats illustrate. I went back and did a comparison of the two over this last season and the issue became quite clear. Both produced a good number of tackles through the year and both had at least one game changing play. But the key stat I want to bring your attention to is the type of teams that they played. I went through and categorised the type of opponent that we faced into Passing, Rushing and Balanced. These may not be exactly correct but I think they are close enough for the point I want to make.
Total Tackles – Sacks – Passes Knocked Down – Fumbles
|Game||DJ Williams||Wesley Woodyard||Key Points|
|Week||Team||Score||Total-Sacks-PDEF-FF||Total-Sacks-PDEF-FF||Big Plays||Team Type|
|10||@KC||W 17-10||9-1-0-1||Was he injured?||Running|
What I want you to focus on is the Passing teams we faced. Now take a look at the total tackles that Wesley has. Almost every passing team we played Wesley’s total tackles were much higher than against Running or Balanced teams. Now this aligns with common knowledge that Mays was pulled out of passing situations and Wesley was inserted. But this is where I see issue with the numbers. I believe Woodyard is picked on in coverage. This would explain his high tackle numbers against passing teams and his lack of production in knocking down passes and getting sacks. This would fly in the face of the concept that he is superior in coverage.
To get a better understanding of how good each player is in coverage it would require someone going through the game tape and watching what they do in passing situations. I for one do not have the time or the means to do so.
Both though it is easy to say are not great in coverage but from what I have seen I would take Williams over Woodyard.
The third and final stat to look at is that of forced fumbles. Over the four year period Woodyard has had a total of 3 fumbles, 2 last year. Williams over that same time period has 7 forced fumbles, 3 last year. This stat is also in favour of Williams again he has more production.
Looking at these statistics and the production of the two, it raises a few questions. One if Woodyard was to start would he be able to get the same production as Williams. If you go back through the history of the two, back to college and high school days Woodyard has never been that type of player. He has been a tackling machine but he has never produced the sacks through his career. Williams on the other hand has, he did it all through college and produced these stats. This is one of the reasons why Williams was a first round pick and Woodyard went undrafted.
Next I looked at the trade worth for Williams. What could we get for him? A fourth maybe a third? Neither of these picks are a sure things plus can that player replace what Williams does? Again it is doubtful. Those guys could be Hall of Famers or busts. Why take the chance when you have the sure thing already. There is no value here.
The most important point of this argument is this one. Over the last four years the Broncos have had three different head coaches. Two of those would consider these two linebackers as not ‘their guys’ and could replace them if they wished. There is no alliance to either guy. The amazing thing that people miss is that all THREE coaches have chosen Williams over Woodyard to be a starter and at a number of different positions. These are the leaders of our team and they should know best. I will go back to the potential factor that I explained earlier. This may be the reason why all three pick Williams over Woodyard. They are all enamoured with the potential of Williams and what he could do.
Another thing that is over looked this season is that DJ was coming back from a dislocated elbow injury. He had to play with a huge brace on his arm for the first few games he had back and that would hinder the best of us. DJ is a trooper and a warrior. He does all these excellent things while being limited and recovering from injury.
A big reason why I think that people are happy to trade Williams or let him go is the DUI from 2010. It is a big blemish on DJ’s record and a sore spot in the eyes of many fans. Plus it is his second arrest, he also had a DUI in 2005, some people have had enough.
The last point I make is that DJ is the third best defensive player we have behind Doom and Champ. He is ahead of Miller for now as he is a more complete linebacker but Miller will take that spot soon. You can’t replace that type of player easily.
I hope I have shown you some interesting points and given you some food for thought. But I leave you with this, you remember those school days when you pick teams with your friends for sport at lunch. If you had to pick between Williams or Woodyard who would you pick? I know who I would. ~ Aussie.