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Broncos Positional Review: Outside Linebackers

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Denver Broncos offseason positional review discussing what the team has based off of 2016 production of players on the team. We'll review stats, eye-test opinion, contract situation, and depth on the Denver Bronco team as we prepare for the start of free agency and the NFL draft.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

I'm breaking down our team to look at what we have in the cupboard for this offseason. In doing so, I've gathered data from nflgsis.com to give us some stats to look at as we evaluate what our players did in the 2016 regular season. Also, overthecap.com contract info will be embedded when available. I'll add to that a synopsis of each player including their contract situation. Hopefully this helps Broncos Country here at MHR be better educated on the state of the team, it’s strengths and weaknesses, and what positions we’ll likely target in free agency and the draft.

In case you missed any of the earlier parts of this series: Special Teams, Safeties, Cornerbacks.

After writing about our corners, now I get to cover our OLBs? Let me start by saying that we are a spoiled team as far as talent goes at these two positions on our defense. We have arguably the best pass rusher in the league in Von Miller, likely a hall of famer in DeMarcus Ware, and two absolute studs as backups that would be starters on any other team in the NFL.

Elway loves pass rushers and the proof is in the pudding. He’s kept us stocked with talent and it has translated to a defense that is a true force to be reckoned with in defending the pass which is a key in today’s NFL.

Stats

Outside Linebackers

Player Tkl Ast Comb Sack Sk Yds TFL QH Int PD FF FR Snap %
Player Tkl Ast Comb Sack Sk Yds TFL QH Int PD FF FR Snap %
Von Miller 62 16 78 13.5 65 13 24 0 3 3 0 81.1%
Shane Ray 33 15 48 8 43.5 6 21 0 0 1 2 58.0%
Shaquil Barrett 20 11 31 1.5 14.5 4 4 0 2 1 0 36.7%
DeMarcus Ware 9 6 15 4 22 3 8 0 1 0 0 27.7%
Dekoda Watson 5 1 6 1 7 1 0 0 0 1 0 3.8%
Vontarrius Dora 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.00%

Players

Von Miller

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Contract Info

There’s not much to say about one of the best players in the NFL. Von Miller is an amazing talent who really has in the past couple of years settled into being a superb all-around linebacker who pass rushes like a monster, defends the run as well as any Denver player, and looks good in pass coverage.

With his recent extension, there’s no drama to be had here or question about who our key pass rusher is going to be in 2017.

Shane Ray

NFL: San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Contract Info

Shane Ray to my eyes stepped his game up somewhat in 2016. His pass rush was more effective and he made some improvements in defending the run, though at times he took himself out of run plays by pass rushing into the backfield and not recognizing a run headed his way. He seems to be on track to be our replacement for DeMarcus Ware moving forward, though the question will be whether that is this year or next.

As far as on the field time, it is worth noting that he’s seen the field on more than half of the snaps for the team in 2016 which is a significant point to make as compared to Ware and Barrett.

Shaquil Barrett

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Contract Info

Shaquil Barrett is one of my favorite defenders who isn’t a household name or starter. He’s a superb all around linebacker with a very strong pass rushing skill set. The unlucky thing for his career is that he joined a team that had Von Miller ahead of him.

Barrett is impressive at everything the team asks him to do and he’s often the relief rotation for Miller so covers the whole gambit of what Miller is asked to do (protip: everything).

DeMarcus Ware

NFL: San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Contract Info

Until we get news that Ware won’t be back with Denver, I’m keeping him in our listing. I think he wants to stay and I think Denver can make room for him if the coaches think he’s got upside for the team.

The big knock on Ware at this point is his health. He has a very tricky back at this point and it means if you want him to play for your team, you should expect he’ll likely miss 6-10 weeks out of the season. That’s a big deal from a personnel management perspective and for most aging players it would be the nail in the proverbial coffin of the player’s football career.

The problem here is that Ware is an exceptional leader and when on the field is a superb player who has yet to show himself as a liability. He is still a pass rushing beast and one of the best at setting the edge against the run. His presence in the locker room alone is worth a contract number similar to what we paid him last year in my opinion and as a fan, I hope the Broncos think so as well.

Dekoda Watson

NFL: San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Contract Info

Dakoda Watson looked very solid to me in the preseason and thankfully we didn’t need him very much in the regular season. He’s a seasoned veteran who knows how to play NFL football. That being said is he worth paying veteran money to at this point? He’s not better than either of our backup OLBs.

Unfortunately barring injuries this offseason, I don’t foresee Watson being back with the Broncos as we have a young guy in Dora that should be taking a step forward this year and other possible rookies from the draft or UDFA.

Vontarrius Dora

NFL: Preseason-Los Angeles Rams at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Contract Info

Vontarrius Dora also looked like a fairly potent force last offseason. He’s a guy I think can develop into a backup role for us in the next year or two and will likely take Watson’s job this year. Look for him this preseason to be wrecking scrubs just like he did last year.

Position Overview

This group is one of the most well positioned groups of the team from a personnel standpoint. We have a true powerhouse player, three starting quality guys, and young developing talent learning from the best in the NFL.

I do think it is important for the team to continue developing talent for this group by bringing in one or two young guys in or right after the draft. Both Barrett and Ray’s contracts end in 2018 and we’ll need the flexibility to make sure we don’t have to break the bank to keep our pass rushers loaded to bear.

Hit up the comments and give me your thoughts. Do you think Barrett is a better player than Ray but is getting hosed by “1st round draft pick” preference? Should Ware be brought back? Is Dora an explorer or a pass rusher?