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Broncos No Bull linebacker analysis

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We take a peek at the Denver Broncos roster and delves into our talented linebackers. Who do we have under contract? What did they look like on the field?

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Welcome to part two of my look at our Denver Broncos defense (here is part one - defensive line). I'm going to take a peek at who we have on the team now as we prepare for Free Agency and the NFL Draft. Please note that while I'm going to throw out some basic stats for our guys, that's just for easy reference. The core of my analysis on these guys comes from what I saw on the field.

  • Stats courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com
  • Contract information courtesy of spotrac.com
  • Snap counts courtesy of FotballOutsiders.com
  • I'm not classifying our Linebackers according to traditional roles and breaking them down into Sam, Will, and Mike. We ran sub packages (nickel or dime) the majority of the time. I'll throw out what they are listed as in general if it is available in the stats though.

Disclaimer: The No Bull Review is about what I see on Broncos game day. Players buried on the depth chart or practice squad might not be included.

Linebackers:

Lamin Barrow

Position Games / Started Tackles Assists
MLB 16 / 1 6 3

Current Contract
Cap Hit
Dead Cap
2nd of 4 years
~$650 K
~$95 K

Lamin saw the field this year, but not a ton at linebacker. He saw a lot of work on Special Teams and has the word "project" written all over him. That's not a bad thing though. He has the frame to add muscle and power and is still cheap for the team.

  • Doesn't appear at first glance to be a good fit for a 3-4
  • Played about 5% of the defensive snaps
  • Needs work if he's going to man the middle in the future (bulk, technique)

Todd Davis

Position Games / Started Tackles Assists Pass Def.
WLB 6 / 2 14 11 2

Current Contract Cap Hit Dead Cap
2nd of 2 years ~$510 K $0

Todd Davis joined the team for only eight games this season. While that didn't give me a lot of looks at his play, I did like what I saw. He plays both the run and the pass well. He's powerful and athletic (they used him at the Will...he's got the skill set for it). One of the best things about Todd is that he's young and looks like he's got a higher ceiling than what we saw. Also worth mentioning was how fast of a learner he is. Todd impressed the defensive locker room with how quickly he picked up the scheme.

  • He would be a great fit at ILB in Phillip's 3-4
  • He's not a liability in coverage (this is a big deal to me)
  • Saw about 12% of the team's snaps. Keep in mind that number is small because of how few games he was with us.

Nate Irving

Position Games / Started Tackles Assists
MLB 8 / 8
26 20

Current Contract Cap Hit Dead Cap
UFA - -

Nate was a mild surprise to me last year. He only saw the field for half the season, but he looked very effective in that time. Was he Patrick Willis? No. But for a position we use less than half the time, he was a solid starter for our defense and it is worth noting that we used him in Nickel when Danny T went down. His style is more of a thumper than the other linebackers. He excels at reading run fits and attacking them.

  • He would be a great fit at the Mo in Phillip's 3-4
  • His coverage looked markedly better than his previous years
  • Saw about 32% of the team's snaps.

Brandon Marshall

Position Games / Started Tackles Assists Sacks Pass Def. F. Fumbles Int
WLB 14 /13 95 24
2.0 9
2
1

Current Contract Cap Hit Dead Cap
ERFA less than $750k
$0

Brandon Marshall was a surprise star on our defense last year. When Danny Trevathan went out with an injury, this was the spot that I was worried the most about. All that worry was for nothing though, as we have a true talent in Brandon Marshall who's hopefully going to be in the Orange and Blue for a long time.

  • He'll be an ILB in the 3-4 and I can see him at Mike or Mo
  • Saw about 80% of the snaps
  • He's not as quick as Trevathan, but he covers very well and uses solid technique for a LB
  • He plays the run very well also

Lerentee McCray

Position Games / Started Tackles Assists Sacks Pass Def. F. Fumbles
SLB 13 / 0 5 3 1.0 1 1

Current Contract Cap Hit Dead Cap
3rd of 3 years ~$515 K ~$5 K

I'm a fan of Lerentee McCray's to be completely up front with you all. He doesn't get to see the field much since he backs up Von Miller, but when he does, he looks good and he has made an impact with his opportunities. If you want to know his skill set take Von Miller and down grade him a step. I don't think he'll ever be the same kind of impact player as Von, but he's got the goods to play NFL ball and he is a valuable backup for our defense.

  • He'll be an OLB in the 3-4
  • I don't recall seeing him in pass coverage much as he usually rushed the passer
  • Saw about 11% of the snaps (Von started all year)

Von Miller

Position Games / Started Tackles Assists Sacks Pass Def. F. Fumbles
SLB 16 / 16 48 18 14.0 2 1

Current Contract Cap Hit Dead Cap
5th of 5 years ~$9.75M $0

Von Miller is one of the best defensive players in the game today. If I'm being honest, I'll point out that his year could have been better. For the premier pass rusher he is, he was rarely doing anything unpredictable. I saw him and Demarcus switch sides a some this year, but that is about it. Hopefully next year he'll benefit from more aggressive blitz packages and creative use of his skills.

  • He's every 3-4 coach's wet dream at OLB
  • Von looked very comfortable dropping into coverage when he wasn't be asked to cover Gronk (Hello, mismatch!)
  • Von saw about 84% of the snaps on the defensive side which was the most from any linebacker on our team. I'm curious to see if we rotate him out more to keep him fresh next year.

Danny Trevathan

Position Games / Started Tackles Assists
WLB 3 / 1 9 2

Current Contract Cap Hit Dead Cap
4th of 4 years ~$680 K ~$26 K

Danny is another one of my favorite guys on the defense. Brandon Marshall made it easy to forget Danny's play from 2013, but we're going to be very blessed to see him back healthy this year. Danny is a play making linebacker. He causes fumbles, is good enough in coverage to create picks (not just have them tipped to him), and he's even solid rushing the passer.

In short, you can flex Danny anywhere you need his skills from play to play. I wouldn't be surprised in the least to see him take snaps at OLB from time to time as well as manning one of the nickel roles when we are in sub packages.

  • Can play OLB or ILB from what I've seen, but you'll want him at the Mo position in the 3-4 as Phillips runs it
  • He's our best coverage line backer hands down
  • He had ~9% of the snaps out of the year due to injury

Closing Thoughts / Overview:

Honestly we're pretty set at line backer from where I'm sitting. I'd like to bring back Nate Irving if we can get an affordable contract with him. He would be a great fit at the Mike in the 3-4. Otherwise, the hope here is that we have the depth on the team coming off the bench. If I'm wearing my John Elway hat this year, I'm not really looking to go get big talent in the draft or free agency for the linebacker position with the exception of getting another OLB just in case I don't think Von will want to stay.