The Denver Broncos are one of the most talented teams in football.
Until you look at the linebacking corps.
Sure, there’s Von Miller as the strong side linebacker. He’s one of the best in the game today at rushing the quarterback, and that’s his specialty. Rarely will you see Miller drop into coverage, it’s not his forte, though he is a staunch run-stuffer and quarterback assassin while utilizing his quickness.
On the opposite side, there’s Danny Trevathan. He was the Broncos’ best linebacker in a traditional sense all year last season. Trevathan racked up a team-leading 129 tackles in 2013, was the physical presence they needed most weeks and was an all-around beast. He forced four fumbles, recovering one, and even picked off three passes.
But Trevathan broke a bone in his leg this week in practice; doctors say he’ll miss 6-8 weeks, though he promises to be back sooner.
Losing Trevathan now is better than the injury occurring during the regular season, sure, but it’s still a quandary with so much uncertainty within the linebacking corps currently.
Brandon Marshall, who was promoted from the practice squad to the active roster late last season, is asked to step up and into the starting weakside linebacker role. Marshall struggled on special teams last year – so did the entire Broncos ST unit, most weeks – and it’s unknown if he can be relied upon to play at a high level for at least three weeks of the regular season.
Inside, the Broncos have yet to name a starter. It will almost certainly be Nate Irving – who really turned it on late last year and into the playoffs – but should it be T.J. Ward?
With the addition of Ward, plus Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter coming back from injuries, safety seems to be the most stacked position on Denver’s defense. At least in the back end.
Ward is massive, he looks more like a linebacker than a safety already and hits like a Mack Truck. That would mean Carter and Moore starting at safety, moving Irving over to the weakside and Ward in the middle. It would mean getting the most talented players out on the field all at once, allowing the Broncos’ playmakers to do just that, make plays.
Of course, it would mean moving Ward and Irving out of their natural positions, but there’s evidence that each could do so.
Irving played well in the playoffs, making great reads to decipher between runs and passes. And on one pass, he saved a touchdown in the back of the end zone to keep the Super Bowl at a one-score spread, proving he can cover tight ends.
For Ward, he’s consistently proven he can do anything on the football field.
Mile High Report did a great writeup/film study of Ward and his ability to be a “robber” safety, a guy that reads what the offense wants to do and then reacts. He’s more like a fourth linebacker in a 4-3 scheme, playing closer to the line of scrimmage and punishing opponents who catch short, crossing routes. Much like Kam Chancellor in the Super Bowl for Seattle.
After watching the film, there’s no doubt that Ward could play middle linebacker. He could make the calls in the huddle and be the leader of the defense, at least holding them together early while people get back from injuries.
For now, though, Marshall has the speaker in his headset and was making the calls for the defense at Broncos practice today.
— Michelle Tuckner (@MichelleTuckner) August 15, 2014
Marshall is getting a chance to prove his worth, but for the Broncos, Ward in the middle may be the way to go.
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