DeShawn Williams turns in highlight-packed game as Broncos defensive lineman has fumble recovery, interception in win in Seattle


The Denver Post 22 August, 2021 - 06:00am 34 views

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With the Broncos needing another run-stuffing, havoc-wreaking force behind starting nose tackle Mike Purcell, DeShawn Williams stepped up Saturday to prove he can be that man… again.

Williams, who operated as Purcell’s primary fill-in after the latter suffered a season-ending foot fracture last year, turned in his own personal highlight reel at Lumen Field. The 28-year-old had a fumble recovery, an interception, a pass deflection and three tackles in the Broncos’ 30-3 win.

It was an “I’m-here-to-stay” performance.

“I got cut by this team four times (before), and I’m still here, still making some type of impact,” Williams said. “Like I said before training camp, I don’t want to leave here. I’m letting it be known and I let it be known last year.”

Williams’ first big play of the night came midway through the second quarter and was catalyzed by outside linebacker Jonathon Cooper. The rookie beat his blocker on the left edge and strip-sacked quarterback Alex McGough. Williams was right there to scoop up the loose ball and lumber into Seahawks’ territory.

“That was probably the slowest (fumble) return I’ve ever seen, but I wanted to get the ball (and did), so that’s fine with me,” Williams said.

On Seattle’s next drive, Williams read a screen pass perfectly and dove in front of McGough’s throw for an interception. He corralled it in his arms as he tumbled to the ground and was mobbed by teammates after jogging off the field with the ball in hand.

“I saw the running back cross my face, and last week (on a screen), I just grabbed him,” Williams said. “But I remember (defensive line coach) Bill (Kollar) saying I can’t just grab him and hold him because they called a flag on that, so I let him go. I saw the quarterback and I was sitting right there in front of him.”

Williams entered the NFL with Cincinnati in 2016 as an undrafted free agent out of Clemson. After a year on the practice squad, he played in four games for the Bengals, but had to wait nearly four years for his next chance in the NFL.

In that time, he nearly walked away from the game, but Williams’ patience paid off last year. He had 37 tackles, two sacks, an interception and three pass deflections while starting 11 games after Purcell went down in Week 7. Now, he’s likely cemented a 53-man roster spot with Saturday’s performance.

Shamar Stephen (an eighth-year pro who had one tackle on Saturday) also provides additional depth at nose tackle behind Purcell and Williams. Stephen signed with Denver as a free agent in April, and he’s played in 98 career games with 65 starts, including 16 last year with Minnesota.

“He’s picked up from where he left off last year,” coach Vic Fangio said of Williams. “You guys know the story — his (bootstrapping) background and all that — and he’s taken great advantage of it. That’s the second pick he’s gotten, so it’s not a fluke, because he also had one last year against New England on a very similar play.”

Williams credited Kollar’s influence on his career revival since he was promoted to the active roster last Sept. 25.

“I give that man everything, because he changed my life,” Williams said. “I would have been working a 9-to-5 (job) if it wasn’t for him.”

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Fuller has made waves in camp and had an impressive catch against the Raiders last week, breaking a tackle short of the line of scrimmage and working his way downfield for a 17-yard gain. Nevertheless, the receiver competition is so tight on the Seahawks' roster right now that there might not be space for him, especially if Penny Hart makes it despite his current ankle injury. Cody Thompson has had a strong week of practice and the team still really likes undrafted rookie Cade Johnson, so Fuller will need to explode onto the scene over the next two weeks to make his case.

Lestage played well in his NFL debut last Saturday, registering 11 snaps at left guard. He showed good movement, physical blocking prowess and a knack for getting to the second level in his limited action. That was especially impressive considering he had just been activated from the non-football injury list earlier that week after missing the first two weeks of training camp following sports hernia surgery. However, he still finds himself on the outside looking in given all the time he missed. It'll be interesting to see if he gets some run at center against the Broncos since that may be his best path to making the team, especially with Ethan Pocic still nursing a hamstring injury and Kyle Fuller looking average at best at the position. 

It wasn't a good night whatsoever for the Seahawks' interior defenders last Saturday. They surrendered 158 yards and two touchdowns on 36 run plays and Lattimore, who played 34 of the team's 79 defensive snaps on the night, did not do himself any favors in his quest for the 53-man roster. He certainly wasn't the issue with Seattle's run defense versus the Raiders, but he didn't stand out as the exception either. Right now, there isn't a very clear path for him to make this team. 

Randall missed last week's affair in Las Vegas due to a groin injury, but the good news for him is that no one in Seattle's cornerback group—save maybe Gavin Heslop—stood out. He'll have some ground to gain given the time he missed, but he should see more than enough opportunities to do so against a talented Broncos receiving corps. If Ahkello Witherspoon struggles again, Randall could have a legitimate shot at not only making the team, but potentially working his way into a starting role as well. 

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