The past few offseasons I scouted a number of players entering their fourth, fifth and sixth seasons. It was popular, so I wanted to continue this series during the 2015 off-season. Many of these players are commonly discussed, but we too often misunderstand what type of players they are now. While few players make big strides in years 1-3, by a player's 4th year they should have progressed in a number of areas. With that mentality I wanted to approach my study of these players like an NFL scout would a rookie, looking back on the most recent season's game film and then write up a scouting report. By doing this I feel the Broncos fan base can create a more up-to-date picture of what these players strengths and weaknesses are instead of relying on what we remember from their early careers.
I'm going to be using the CBS Sports player profile outline, since it's so robust and even used by NFL.com now. They break the players skills into a variety of categories and then give them a score for that category by looking at every snap they play. For each player I'll try and do my scouting with either a member of an NFL team staff or a someone from a reputed scouting site. Our method is straightforward with me watching every game and snap while my partner does this separately. Then at a later date we watch two to four games together and compare notes. Following this session we assign a score for a variety of categories depending on the position. For example the average NFL starter at any position will be a 7, a 9 would be a Pro Bowl or All-Pro level player while an 8 is a very or above average starter. A 6 is an area of concern while a 5 is likely reason to be benched. This is a methodology I started two years ago and which I first used last off-season while working on perfecting it these past few years.
As always I wish I could include more clips but since these articles are so long anyways, including more than one or two plays would only increase the length. Because of this I almost always try and include a positive play by the player rather than a negative one.
Due to injury Danny Trevathan's 2014 was cut short so I watched both his 2013 and 2014 seasons to get a larger sample size of his abilities. Also I won't have any great gifs by Mike but I did try to include picture breakdowns, not perfect but I hope they help illustrate my points, my apologizes ahead of time.
*This isn't a predictor of future success. It's an assessment of their ability currently; it's how they performed in the past.*
Acceleration/Burst: Trevathan isn't a fast player but he has good initial speed, moving quickly over short distance, which makes him a solid sideline to sideline player, which really helps against both the screen game and outside runs. This is also benefited by in his reaction time, he's able to diagnose what the offense is doing quickly and from there uses that short area quickness to close in on the play. As I said earlier he doesn't have great top end speed so in a foot chase he'll likely lose but within the box he has the speed and burst to make any play.
- GRADE: 7.3
Read and React: One of the most vital traits for any interior linebacker is the ability to read the quarterback, figure out the play and then quickly execute a shutdown. This is probably one of the rarest traits for any defensive player to possess, at least at the high levels of skill. Luckily Trevathan isn't a simple minded player, he's got a good mind and while he isn't at the mental level of a legend like Brian Urlacher he's able to make defensive calls fairly quickly and rarely makes mental mistakes.
One sign of a player who puts in the effort is if they bite on play action or draws and it seems that Trevathan has done a good job improving in this area as he bit on these trick plays about 10% to 15% of the time, playing very patiently and reading the QB rather than following the distractions.
To wrap this topic up let's look at a play against the Cardinals. It starts as a play action which Trevathan (in the blue circle) moves towards (the ball will be in the red circle) but doesn't buy into it fully, he realizes what is going on and shifts back towards the play. He's engaged with a blocker but uses his fluidity to continuing sliding toward the play, breaking off his defender at the perfect time to hit the tight end and slow him enough for help to arrive and the play ends. This play shows how Trevathan can read the play and quarterback and then remain active on the field despite being blocked most of the play.
- GRADE: 8.0
Run Defense: With this series there always seems to be an area that I totally misjudge a player and they prove me very wrong, Danny Trevathan's run defense was this area. From watching him play initially I figured he had struggled against the run but in 2013 he was actually quite dominant. As has been, and will continue to be, referenced in this report Trevathan has exceptional decision making and short distance speed and against the run this is incredibly beneficial since it allows him to have the vision to see the play as it develops and dive into the lane and contain the run before it goes anywhere. His quick reactions also make him exceptional at stopping plays prior to the line of scrimmage with almost a quarter of his run defense tackles taking place at or behind the line of scrimmage.
Sadly he had his fair share of troubles despite having the mental ability to play the run well, he had real trials with finish tackles, this is sadly big enough to really impact his grade in this area, which is disappointing because on the majority of plays he made the correct read and quickly dove into the fray but his trouble with tackling, which will be discussed later, caused issues that can't be overlooked.
For an example of this let's look at the Broncos second game against the Chargers in 2013. On this play Trevathan sees the hole open and also sees Antonio Gates coming to block him. He is engaged and is blocked out of the play until right when the running back Oliver gets close and he breaks free and makes the tackle. It's a beautiful play.
- GRADE: 7.1
Pass Defense: When we think of Trevathan's greatest strength as a linebacker his pass defense usually comes to mind. Pass defense is usually seen as critical for a player in his position and for the most part he lives up to that ideal with strong decision making, good ability to read a quarterback and significant lateral quickness. He's at his best in zone coverage when his average speed isn't exposed and he can counter what he sees, allowing him to swiftly make a play on the receiver or the ball. As I said before when tasked with one on one coverage he struggled at times against quicker players who could beat him, especially on go routes. This was something we saw offensive coordinators take advantage of in the second half of 2013 especially. It wasn't all doom and gloom though, Trevathan was excellent for the most part and far above average when tasked with zoning. I hope that as part of his recovery he's been trying to improve his overall speed as well so he can take his pass defense beyond just good into the great he's shown flashes of.
- GRADE: 7.4
How the linebackers can attack the "A" gap
Good morning Broncos Country! I'm excited to bring you this new series. For now I've settled on "Denver Broncos X's and O's" but this series will be looking at each of the 41 sacks the Denver D registered last season. The goal? Have fun and learn about football!
Tackling: Tackling form has been an issue for Trevathan, struggling with the wrap up. I initially thought it was purely bad form but after watching enough games I found part of it was upper body strength, Trevathan had problems maintaining tackles that seemed finished but defenders were able to break free. This became more obvious as the film review continued. He didn't have terrible form, though not perfect, he just struggled with dragging opponents down before he lost his grip. This was frustrating to watch, and likely frustrating to experience for him and the coaches, at times and hopefully in his rehab the past year he's also worked on improving his overall strength.
- GRADE: 6.4
Pass Rush: Trevathan makes an effective pass rusher for reasons we've discussed before, his initial step and his ability to read and react, both of which help him get off the snap quickly but also help him slip into the gap more easily. In 2013 he rushed the passer just over 60 times and notched 2 sacks, 3 hits and 14 pressures, meaning he applied pressure in some form on 32.7% of the times he rushed the passer. It's a small sample size of plays but he was very effective. Now he isn't a bull rusher or possessing a great spin move but on blitz calls he has the speed and intelligence to get to the quarterback by attacking gaps rather than beating blockers.
- GRADE: 7.9
OVERALL GRADE: 7.3
Danny Trevathan is a young player with a very high football IQ that is limited by some of his physical abilities. He has a physical ceiling that isn't a high apogee but don't knock him too much for it because he makes the most of his talent with great mental acuity and work ethic. A lot will depend on how his rehabilitation went and if he's able to fully recover but if he can return to his 2013 form with more experience I have high hopes. Trevathan should do well in Wade Phillips system with his skill set. Also one thing that is my new favorite move Trevathan has is he'll draw in a blocker while keeping his eye on the play and break the block at the perfect time, both examples I'm including show this and it's a high intelligence move.