Bears sign veteran linebacker James AndersonContinue reading.
D.J. Williams sees big things ahead for Bears’ LBs
Asked about his expectations for the Bears’ voluntary mini-camp next week, new Bears middle linebacker D.J. Williams talked about how he was looking forward to continuing to build relationships with his new coaches and teammates.
Then the veteran made a declaration — and raised the bar for the Bears’ linebacker corps.
“I’m actually excited about our linebacker corps,” Williams told the Sun-Times in a phone interview. “I’ll go on record and say, I’ll be disappointed that if our linebacker corps isn’t the top or one of the top linebacker corps in the NFL next year.”
The Bears’ linebacker corps has gone over a major overhaul. Weak-side linebacker Lance Briggs, as everyone knows, is the only returning starter. Williams replaces the departed Brian Urlacher in the middle, while veteran James Anderson takes over for Nick Roach, who left for the Oakland Raiders, on the strong side.
They won’t be able to replicate the chemistry Urlacher, Briggs and Roach developed over the past several years. But the Bears’ new trio aren’t pushovers either. They’re experienced, fast and productive.
Williams, a former first-round pick, was a tackling machine for the Denver Broncos for years. Anderson was the same with the Carolina Panthers.
It’s easy to pick up on Williams’ excitement.
“First, I’ll start with Lance, and whew,” Williams said. “Me and Lance grew up not too far from each other in California was in Sacramento. I believe he was in Elk Grove High School. We were close. Throughout high school, our names were brought up several times comparing each other. We never really met back then. But we got to the NFL and we basically played the same positions our careers.
“Speaking of the game, I’ve watched him play a lot. I like his style of play. I think he’s going to enhance mine a lot. He’s a huge playmaker. Being in the NFL, though, you meet guys, I’ve met him in the offseason a few times. He has a great personality. His personality matches mine.
“As far as James, just watching James, James is a great athlete. I went to college with Jon Beason and I asked Beason about him and he told me he’s the type of a guy you’ll love to play with. And James is a great athlete. He can do it all – hit, run, cover.”
Williams has the challenge of replacing Urlacher in the middle. He said he’s experienced in cover-2 schemes, which defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will continue to use.
“Four or five years ago when Al Wilson left in Denver, they had me to move to the middle and replace him,” Williams said. “I had a pretty productive season, led the AFC in tackles, led our team in actual tackles and had success. This being my 10th year … I’ve actually played everywhere in any type of defense, 3-4 or 4-3 as far as linebacker.
“I think this move is probably best for my career, being in my 10th year. Playing in the middle, a lot of things are funneled to you. The responsibilities of a middle linebacker I think are a little less strenuous as far as guarding wide receivers and things like that, so I’m excited about it, to be the man in the middle and plug up the holes.”
Williams (30), Briggs (32) and Anderson (29) aren’t young anymore, but their experience and athleticism should help a team that’s undergoing a transition.
“We’re veteran guys,” Williams said. “We’re all seven years or above in our careers. We all worked up and came up as great athletes so nobody has to worry about us being a little long in the tooth because running and hitting was our forte from Day 1.”