ENGLEWOOD — K’Waun Williams played with torn ligaments in his right thumb last season against Seattle. Maybe we should start there. Or how about when he sealed the Broncos’ victory against Jacksonville by undercutting a route to Christian Kirk and snared the interception with a bulky club on his right hand?
Through the first six days of training camp no unit has dominated like the secondary. The first thing you think of is All-Pro cornerback Pat Surtain II.
“We are flying around out there,” he told Denver7.
Then All-Pro safety Justin Simmons pops into your head. He continues to play center field like Andruw Jones, picking off Russell Wilson for a second-straight day as he jumped a route to Courtland Sutton for a pick six. And who can forget about the strong safety tandem of Caden Sterns, an emerging prospect, and the graybeard Kareem Jackson or promising corner Damarri Mathis.
Through the first week, the coverge has been tighter than SaranWrap.
“We always feel like we can be the best secondary in the league. We felt like that last year,” Mathis told me. “We know the guys we’ve got. We know the type of chemistry we have. We are going to have a great season and put that on display this year.”
The reason the pieces fit? Don’t discount Williams. He is a glue player, that rare nickelback who embraces coverage and isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty against the run. Williams, 32, posted 44 tackles, two for a loss and a pair of quarterback hits in 2022, his first in Denver after signing as a free agent.
“K’Wuan is a huge part of this defense. To me, he’s one of the guys that deserves a lot more recognition than he gets,” Jackson said. “He does a lot for us. He does everything. And in my opinion without him, we would not have been as good as we were last year.”
While the Broncos passing game remains clunky, it is hard not to be inspired the defensive backs. The communication, the chemistry, the technique, the toughness is all present, and defensive coordinator Vance Joseph appears poised to employ them more aggressively, trusting more man coverage.
Williams welcomes all challenges. Watch his feet. He moves with balance and dexterity fitting of a soccer player. It’s because he was one. Williams grew up playing soccer in Jamaica during the summers until he was roughly 12 years old.
“My dad played soccer. I also played soccer as a young kid and in Jamaica they didn’t know much about American football. So, I had played soccer and had fun with it,” said Williams, who remains an avid fan of futbol, citing Manchester City as his favorite team. “For sure the skills translated to football. I was running all day long. Jamaicans, they run track and them boys are fast, so you have to compete. They just don’t let anybody on the field.”
Williams changed to No. 8 this season. No matter the jersey, he continues to make plays. It’s why it’s worth reserving judgment on the offense through one week. On first and third glance, the secondary is making things extremely difficult.
“They have really good ball skills. They are smart. They are experienced,” coach Sean Payton said. “You see the communication. It’s hard to find completions in some of these drills. They do a really good job of it.”
The offense had some moments. Quarterback Russell Wilson connected on a long completion on the sideline to Courtland Sutton near the end of practice. And third-stringer Ben DiNucci lofted a bomb to Montrell Washington for a score. …
The Broncos went 9-on-7 and stage one-on-one drills with receivers pitted against cornerbacks. Jerry Jeudy shone in the one on ones, consistently creating space for easy completions. …
Kickers Brett Maher and Elliott Fry spoke for the first time on Thursday. Maher mentioned his connection to Payton as part of the reason he signed in Dallas. He had a terrific year for the Cowboys, converting 29 of 32 field goals, before getting the yips in the playoffs on extra points. He said the experience reminded him that you always have to be prepared to deal with adversity, and that “scars” can toughen him. Fry is ready for a fulltime gig after bouncing around as an emergency fill-in for multiple teams. Through camp, neither has moved ahead in the competition. …
Javonte Williams continues to inspire with his comeback. This team is likely to finish top 10 in rushing attempts and watching Williams early on this summer cements that notion. …
Receiver Brandon Johnson continues to open eyes and could challenge for a starting job following Tim Patrick’s season-ending Achilles’ injury. …
Cornerback Riley Moss missed his second straight practice, and Payton declined to reveal the reason yet. …
Outside linebacker Frank Clark missed Monday with an illness but participated lightly on Tuesday.