D.J. Williams certainly had a tough season last year. It started with a torn calf muscle in July which held him out of most of the preseason. Then he had bronchitis preparing for the New Orleans Saints in Week 5. The following week, he suffered a ruptured left pectoral muscle. That one ended a season he felt he never really started.
“I was kinda banged up last year,”Williams said Tuesday after the first of three Bears mandatory minicamp practices at the Walter Payton Center. “This year, I’m just focusing on being healthy and being out there every snap.”
The Bears retooled their defense this offseason. They brought in Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young to rush the edges. They re-signed Jeremiah Ratliff and Nate Collins and drafted two tackles. They picked up three safeties-signing M.D. Jennings and Ryan Mundy through free agency and drafting Brock Vereen. They moved Shea McClellin over to strong-side linebacker.
Even with all these changes, coach Marc Trestman feels that the key for all of this to work is Williams in the middle. “When he’s playing well, it’s visibly noticeable in terms of what we can do with the middle linebacker position,” Trestman said.
So far during camp, Williams has been healthy, and he has the edge over second-year linebacker Jon Bostic. “He’s certainly the lead dog there,” coach Marc Trestman said. “But we do have competition.”
Williams knows that even if he wins the battle this season at the middle, Bostic is probably the future of the team. With is experience, he is mentoring not only Bostic, but also McClellin.
“From being in the league—this is my 11th year—I’ve probably seen a lot more than them,” Williams said. “Whenever I see something, a little tidbit they might not know, or a little key here, I voice my opinion.”
Trestman has not gone as far as saying D.J. Williams is the starter, but if he stays healthy, he’ll get the first look. The Bears are hoping he does have a healthy season. It would mean a good season for him, and probably a great one for the team.