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Growing Up Fast

Posted Aug 29, 2005

Starting for Champ Bailey has accelerated Darrent Williams' learning curve as he continues to make an impression in his first preseason.


Williams Flourishes With Playing Time in Bailey's Absence


Patrick Chukwurah celebrated with Darrent Williams during the second half of Saturday's 37-24 win over Indianapolis. PHOTO: JAMIE SCHWABEROW / RICH CLARKSON AND ASSOCIATES

By Andrew Mason

DENVER -- Darrent Williams has shown not even the slightest hint of intimidation at his NFL surroundings.

Being awestruck? That can happen. But even that didn't take place when he lined up on the opposite side of the scrimmage line from Marvin Harrison and Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts.

It didn't happen during the game, which Williams started. Before the game, though ...

"The pregame, I went out there and saw Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison," Williams said. "I (thought), 'I'm on the field with them. I've been watching them since I was in college.'"

Saturday, he played against them, and while he endured ups and downs, he turned in one of the defining plays for the defense when he sacked Manning on a third-quarter third-down play. It was remarkable enough that anyone got to Manning, who was sacked only 13 times last season. But the fact that one of the Broncos' sackers was Williams was amazing, given that he played four years at Oklahoma State without posting even one sack.

"This is new to me," Williams said. "At OSU, I mainly played outside corner, and we really never blitzed our outside corner; we blitzed our nickel corner or our safeties. It's been great. I like going in there, being able to blitz and get some pressure on the quarterback and hit a running back in the backfield."

That play was at one end of the spectrum. The late-first-half touchdown connection from Manning to Harrison was at the other; Williams was left grasping as Harrison scored.

It wasn't his fault, but he was still kicking himself on the sidelines afterwards.

"The only mistake mainly was when we got the wrong call and we had busted coverage," Williams said. "They were telling me, 'It's not your fault,' stuff like that, but I was kind of down that we weren't playing the right thing and we let a touchdown in."

That's exactly the kind of response that assistant defensive backs coach Jimmy Spencer wanted to see from the second-round pick.

"Even if one guy did make a mistake, we look at it as a team," Spencer said. "If one guy makes a mistake, it was on all of us."

But Williams fared splendidly in the areas he could control, notching a team-leading nine tackles Saturday -- seven solo stops and two assists. Colts receivers did make catches in his area from time to time, but Williams generally kept them from turning small plays into big ones.

"I'd give myself a 'B,'" Williams said when asked to grade his performance. "I still made some mistakes, but overall I played pretty well. I can always play better. If I'd had six picks, I'd still feel I could play better.

"I had a few tackles. I just think I played better than I did the previous two weeks."

At the very least, well enough for Spencer to gain confidence in him -- just as he has in fellow rookie cornerbacks Domonique Foxworth and Karl Paymah.

"I don't look at them as rookies," Spencer said. "They're smart, they're fast, they can compete. I don't hesitate to throw them in there."