We all know that the Middle Linebacker position is one of the hot camp battles. Nate Irving will get the first crack at the position, but I have my doubts about his health. To me, he's a concussion waiting to happen. Him laying on the sideline after a special teams hit last year is seared on my brain. Once you get concussions, they come more and more easily until it forces you out of the game you love. While I hate predicting injuries, I just can't say with any amount of confidence that Irving will make it any further than Moreno will before he's hurt. So who does that leave for my coveted spot on this countdown? Well, I'll tell you. The #4 thing I want to see during the Pre-Season games and Training Camp is....
Steven Johnson becoming the starting Middle Linebacker. While I fully expect Irving to start the season as the Mike Linebacker, I think it will have more to do with Fox wanting to give him one last chance at glory moreso than him beating out Seven Johnson. Last year, Johnson saw VERY limited duty. By very limited, I mean that he played a handful of snaps in 2 games (@ Ravens and vs Chiefs). In those 2 games, he had 10 tackles and forced a fumble. In the pre-season last year, he lit it up. He looked like he was the best Linebacker outside of Von Miller each time he stepped on the field (Sorry Wesley Woodyard, but he looked even better than you in the pre-season). He recorded 15 tackles and 1 forced fumble in the final 3 games of the pre-season where he started seeing more playing time (you know, being an undrafted free agent and all).
When it comes to storyline, Irving has a good one with his car accident, coming back from that and dominating the college ranks, but Steven Johnson's is equally as wonderful. If nobody has read the ESPN article they did about him, here it is. After reading that article, he is certainly the sentimental choice for playing, but sentiment will only get you so far. You have to have the talent and skills to succeed. This is where I think Johnson has it in bunches. He is fast and can fly to the ball. That helps him in the passing game. He is a good tackler and has a nose for the ball, which helps him in the running game, and like our very own Dennis Smith, that dude just has a knack for forcing fumbles.
Wanting an undrafted player to be the starter in year 2 is quite the "bold statement", but hey, go bold or go home I say. I'm not expecting him to be a young version of Ray Lewis or anything, I'm simply saying that I want to see him step it up and force his way into the starting lineup. I think that once he does, there is no looking back. Sorry, no film on him, so you'll just have to take my word on how good he looked last year, unless you have a DVR with all of the Broncos games on it. I absolutely can not wait for Camp to start so we can start watching this young kid play again, and so that I can have more indepth reports about him for you guys to turn you into believers.
Lets go Steven Johnson, show the world that they can only tell you "you're finished" so many times! You made the correct decision to listen to your teammate at Kansas Chris Harris when he told you to come here. Its time to continue your quest at becoming a starting Linebacker for the Denver Broncos!