NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In the closing minutes of the Titans-Broncos game on December 11, the defending Super Bowl champs were on the move, and trailing by just a field goal.
That's when Titans linebacker Avery Williamson stepped in, and secured the win. Williamson stripped Broncos tight end A.J. Derby, and the Titans recovered the loose ball to secure a 13-10 victory.
Williamson, heading into his fourth NFL season, wants to produce more plays just like that in 2017.
"I want to have more splash plays this year,'' Williamson said. "I have been working on making sure I solidify the plays, and I am comfortable out there now. So now it is maybe taking chances more, going ahead and doing things, and not being scared to make those big plays. I want to make more game-changing plays."
Williamson, a fifth round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, has been one of defense's most consistent performers during his career. He's tallied over 100 tackles in each of his first three seasons, including a career-high 149 stops in 2016, when he also recorded two sacks, an interception and a forced fumble.
Williamson became the first player in the Titans era to record back-to-back 100-tackle seasons to start his career.
Coach Mike Mularkey said he's seen growth – and leadership – from Williamson.
"Avery is just a steady player,'' Mularkey said. "I think Avery is a little different (this year). His body, he is bigger than he's been since he's been here. He's physically bigger. He is running really well, his weight is great. And he has taken more leadership this year than he has in the past, which is important, especially in that role."
Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said he wants Williamson to keep doing what he's been doing.
"He's grown every year,'' LeBeau said. "I want him to play within the defense and I want him to play with what he sees. I am not going to take his eyes away from him -- I want him to go make plays. A good defender knows where he belongs in the defense, and he fits in there."
Williamson appreciates the confidence his coaches have in him.
"I know the coaches have a lot of faith in me, and seeing that it shows they know I can get the job done and that makes me feel really good,'' Williamson said. "And the feel around the team, everybody has been good, man. Everybody comes to work ready to go. Everybody has a positive attitude and that is what it takes to have a successful team. You have to have guys who are on the same page and want to put the time in."
Williamson spent a good part of his early offseason training in Arizona, something he's done the past two years. After working in 10 OTAs and minicamp last week, he feels the Titans are on the verge of what could be a special season.
The Titans won nine games in 2016, four more wins than teams Williamson was a part of in his first two NFL seasons combined.
Williamson said the culture has changed.
"It is looking good, man,'' he said. "I am really excited. I feel like the team is definitely taking a step forward. I feel like we have matured as a group, and I feel like we know what we have to do now. We know the system a lot better.
"It is night and day from what it used to be. When I first got here, everybody was more selfish, there was a lot more selfishness on the team. Now I feel like everybody is willing to pay the price to be great."