One concept has started to become much bigger than it should be and I'm here to take a stand against is the notion that the Broncos are lacking a coverage LB. For some reason people see the loss of Wesley Woodyard and equate a lack of depth at the LB position as missing that coverage piece.
Do not confuse these two things Broncos Country. The Broncos do lack LB depth. Beyond solid penciled in starters Danny Trevathan and Von Miller, you have nobody on the roster who has experience as a starting Mike, and you have a couple of young unknowns as backups to the SAM and WILL positions. This is very true, the Broncos lack LB depth. But they have a coverage LB in Danny Trevathan.
Remember, he is still the one that will be trusted most of the time with man to man duties. This is largely the role he has played the last couple of seasons. Woodyard, while labeled and thought of more as a coverage linebacker really played the traditional role of intermediate zone coverage from an ILB. Woody was most effective from zone coverage, and this was how he was used. They also (usually) have the responsibility of covering a the back out of the backfield.
A LB that can cover short zones in the middle who can also handle man to man against a RB are not commodities that will keep the Broncos up late at night searching for the next diamond in the rough. Not only that, you're going to get a lot of help from newly acquired SS T.J. Ward.
The Broncos are going to be able to use a lot of different coverage shells with Ward. They can sneak him into the box to play that robber role, they can use him as another "LB" or coverage man in Rahim Moore playing centerfield, they can even choose to man him up on a TE in short yardage situations, which is perfect because it gets him close to the LOS in case the offense decides to run.
Ward is going to add a lot not only to the running game, but the passing game as well. But let's not get too far off track here--I have a thorough look at him coming up later in the week.
Do not start to parrot the lazy observation of WW leaving as an indication that the Broncos need a special coverage LB because that player is already on the roster. If the Broncos do go ahead and add a LB it is because the over all depth of the position is severely lacking.
It would be wonderful to find that magical 3-down MIKE who could solve all the issues as WW was supposed to last year, but Bronco Mike is not holding his breath that this player exists in this draft.
If you find yourself still freaking out about the situation, break it down:
- Against most base offenses in the NFL (2 back or 2 TE sets) you're going to have about 3 viable receiving options to account for. I'm not going to lose sleep over a FB putting on a Jerry Rice like show, nor am I going to panic that a blocking TE a la Virgil Green is suddenly going to turn into Jimmy Graham. That gives you your two corners, your coverage LB, and some other guys to help bracket if necessary. Don't worry, be happy.
- Against those base offenses that will run more 3-WR sets, you may see a pass catching RB to go along with a pass catching TE. Gives the offense 5-targets. Against this configuration you will be in a sub defense and depending on what the strength of your roster is, you can choose to go different ways. You can match that 4th receiver (either a 4th WR, or the pass catching TE) with an extra DB as in dime...or if you're the Broncos you can line up Trevathan against him with some bracket help (or not).
There are a million different ways to prepare against the most potent offenses in the NFL with the personnel the Broncos already have, and none of them should require that you have two killer coverage LB's. Now, would it make things easier if you had two that could play every down? Of course but this is a luxury and not a need.
Going into the 2014 draft, if you are jonesing for a LB, hope for one that is a complete player. That's the kind of prospect I can get on board with. Just whatever you do, quit clamoring for a player that already exists. His name is Danny Trevathan, and he is our coverage linebacker.
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