Von Miller and T.J. Ward are undoubtedly two of the key cogs that will need to make the Broncos' defense work in 2014. What Miller and Ward bring to the table is fairly well-known; both are special players, stars at their respective positions. Another thing that the Broncos' defensive stars have in common? They both had high praise for linebackers Brandon Marshall and Nate Irving on the last day of training camp Friday.
Miller said he is feeling great working through the recovery process from his 2013 season-ending ACL injury, and had great things to say about Marshall and his abilities to replace Danny Trevathan. Citing the history of linebackers in Denver who have stepped up in injury situations before (Wesley Woodyard replaced DJ Williams, Trevathan stepped in for Woodyard), Miller thinks that Marshall has the ability to step in and succeed immediately.
"Brandon's been doing a great job all of training camp. There have been times where Danny was out before and Brandon came in and he did a great job...He knows the defense. He's a great player. He's an excellent leader and I'm looking forward to seeing what he'll do out there."
T.J. Ward, who will be a big part of replacing Trevathan's defensive presence in Denver, told reporters on Friday that he would be helping Marshall with play calls in Trevathan's absence. "[Marshall] is going to get the initial calls and everything, but I'm down there to help relay everything to the defense." The Broncos' star strong safety knows how tough it can be to relay play calls to his teammates (he filled this role in Cleveland), so he is willing to do whatever he can to help make it easier on Marshall's transition into the play-calling role.
Marshall and Ward will split duties relaying play-calls from the sidelines, but Nate Irving will likely have a part in the task as well. Irving, who enjoyed a relatively successful season last year as the strong-side linebacker in the Broncos defense, is on track to start the season as the Broncos' starting middle linebacker. Irving's transition back to the position he was drafted at looked like a great move in last week's preseason game, and Von Miller most definitely approved the position move.
"When he came in and played 'Sam' last year, he did a great job...'Mike,' I think it's a little bit easier for him, and I think he'll do great things. He's a natural 'Mike,' and I'm looking forward to seeing what he does."
Why is Nate Irving a fit at the 'Mike' position? Well, T.J. Ward had an answer for that:
"First of all, he's a big guy. He's athletic, he's smart. He can get guys lined up in an order and he's a very good communicator as well. He handles himself very well on the field."
With the Niners and their talented offense in the Broncos' sights this week, the two young linebackers will have their work cut out for them. How Irving and Marshall perform at Levi's Stadium on Sunday will dictate their pursuits for starting lineup spots with the team, as well as provide a better picture of how the defense will work without Danny Trevathan at Will linebacker for the start of the season. Whether he's up to the task is yet to be proven, but Marshall has at least one believer, who happens to be the team's most talented defensive player. Von Miller expects big things out of Marshall, "I know he'll take full advantage of his opportunity."