ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **Sylvester Williams is expecting a lot of pressure this coming season, and he's welcoming it with open arms.
As the Broncos transition to a 3-4 defense with one tackle anchoring the center of the line, the former first-round pick could be the big man in the middle for the Broncos. The opportunity to show what he can do now entering his third season is something that he sees as perhaps a breakthrough chance of sorts, which is something that Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway hopes to see, as well.
"I think when we look at Sly, and obviously we're thrilled by his continued work and his progression, but this is a big year for him," Elway told Broncos TV at the NFL owners meetings on Monday. "He's going to be in his third year now and being a first-round draft pick, we've got high expectations of him and what we're going to do to best give him a chance to show what he can do with a new coaching staff."
"There's a lot of pressure on me, but to be honest, I'm happy to have that pressure. I'm just excited that the coaches really believe in me in giving me a shot to prove myself." - Sylvester Williams
While those expectations might weigh heavily on some minds, it just makes Williams' motor run, and with his former starting defensive tackle counterpart Terrance Knighton heading to Washington, Williams could be the leading candidate.
"This is going to be the most excited I've been going into a year, really my entire-two year career," he said in an interview with DenverBroncos.com. "I'm going into my third year and I'm really excited. There's a lot of pressure on me, but to be honest, I'm happy to have that pressure. I'm just excited that the coaches really believe in me in giving me a shot to prove myself."
What the change in defensive scheme could mean is that Williams could see more focus on getting through the teeth of an opposing offensive line, concentrating on penetrating to stop the run or get to the quarterback. Though he hasn't played in a 3-4 defense before, there were plenty of times that former defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio's defense incorporated 3-4 intricacies so Williams sees that being a simple bridge to Wade Phillips' philosophy. And that ability to be aggressive is something that he views as a plus with his skill set, and he can also work in the way of stuffing the run.
"I definitely feel that way. Last year we had a great defense; we were great on rushing teams, we had two pass rushers from the edge and we also had great corners and safeties. That helped us a lot," he said. "Next year we're coming back with those same defensive ends. We have some of the same defensive linemen and we're coming back with those same defensive backs. We've got a new coach that's supposed to be good at what he does as a 3-4 defensive coach with that philosophy so I definitely think that's going to give us an opportunity to attack more and be more aggressive, and like you said, more often it will allow us to get our defensive linemen upfield."
Hoping to succeed in a big season, Williams is happy to take on a bigger role with bigger opportunity and more trust from the coaching staff and from Elway.
"There's going to be high expectations, so we expect Sly to take big steps for us this year," Elway said, "because we're going to be relying on him."