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Broncos’ inside linebackers ready to tackle new season head-on

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Brandon Marshall and Todd Davis are expecting to make huge improvements in their play, execution this season.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Denver Broncos Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Marshall has a secret technique for tackling.

Well, maybe more of a calculated approach than a secret - he never puts his head down.

This came after advice from a college coach who noticed Marshall always had his head low and often missed his tackles.

“I was getting there, but I was missing tackles and getting hurt, too,” Marshall recalled. “One day, (former Nevada Defensive Coordinator Nigel Burton) told me to put my helmet on.

“So I put my helmet on. He said buckle it up. I did, and he just hit me in the face. He asked if it hurt. I said no. He did it again and asked if it hurt, I said no. He said, ‘Tackle like that.’ I said, ‘OK, cool’ (laughing).”

If there were a metaphor for Marshall’s approach to this season, it would be just like he tackles - with his head up, staring down his victim and hitting him with his face.

Going into a second year working opposite Todd Davis, and attending his first OTAs in two years without nursing an injury, Marshall is ready to hit the challenges of the upcoming season head-on.

All of them.

“I had a bad taste in my mouth all of last year. Even during the season, I was like, ‘I’m not making any plays. I’m not making plays.’ It just felt weird,” Marshall said, adding that there was a “Super Bowl lull” but this year will be different. “I plan to have a complete opposite season. I plan to make all the plays.”

And he’s not kidding - tackles, interceptions, pass break-ups, forced fumbles...if defense is meant to do it, Marshall plans to accomplish it.

“I’m definitely looking at career bests for everything,” he said, adding that some of the additions to the defense from new coordinator Joe Woods are going to help him get those bests. “I’m excited. I’ve been putting a lot of work in. I think when you put a lot of work in, you gain confidence in yourself because you know that you put the work in.”

Marshall is also expecting that from his linebacking corps, telling his group that “making all the plays” is the linebacker’s job.

“Linebackers are supposed to lead the team in tackles,” he said. “We’re supposed to be the playmakers on defense, and I think that’s what we need to get back to.”

Marshall will get no argument from his counterpart Davis as the ILB is excited to build on a rather interesting stat from last season - not missing a single tackle in the run game and only missing two in the passing game.

“I didn’t even know that was true until it came out,” Davis said, laughing about not being sure how to improve on it. “It’s a good stat. I hope I can do it again this year.”

Bettering their stats and racking up a bunch of personal bests will depend on Marshall and Davis having good chemistry. Last season they nicknamed themselves “Thunder” and “Lightning,” but they both admit to still improving on their communication.

“I think we have it down,” Marshall said, noting that he and Danny Trevathan, Davis’ predecessor who left to Chicago in free agency after the Super Bowl, got to the point where they knew what the other was doing - but it took time.

It will take more time for Marshall and Davis too.

“I think what Todd and I have going on is great. We work hard, we do extra stuff. We talk ball on the sidelines,” Marshall said. “We’re going to be just fine.”

The two are also bolstered by some meat on the defensive line - literally. Between Domata Peko and Zach Kerr coming in free agency, and a 350-pound rookie UDFA Tyrique Jarrett, the Broncos have a couple of very big nose tackles ready to stuff the run.

“I’m really excited. Todd and I call [Jarret] ‘Pot Roast Jr.’ Hopefully he can live up to that (laughing),” Marshall said. “When Terrance Knighton was in there, I remember one time he told me when we played the Bills, ‘Look man, when you see me in front of you, just go make the play.’ He took up a double team, and sat there for three seconds and I just made the play. I said, ‘That’s what I’m talking about.’

“Hopefully (Jarrett) can do that,” Marshall added.

Davis couldn’t agree more.

“You see the smile on my face? I love it. I love the big boys that we brought in,” he said. “I definitely love the nose tackles. They’re key to us, as you know, as the o-lineman is to the running back. I’ve always dreamed of us going to the Super Bowl, winning the Super Bowl, and being able to buy my whole d-line something and our nose tackle something as well just because they’re so influential and so key to what we do in the running and passing game.”

If the palpable energy that flows from both of these linebackers is any indication that the Broncos’ defense will pick up last season’s slack, then fans have nothing to worry about.

Both love what Woods is bringing to the coordinator table and how that is energizing an already top-flight defense.

“He just brings a new attitude, a new life to us,” Davis noted, pointing out Woods’ mentality behind his defensive scheme. “He’s an attack kind of coach—a shoot your shot kind of coach. Go make plays. I think that’ll be great for us. I’m really excited for him to be our DC.”

And Davis’ excitement for the new coordinator only pales in comparison to his excitement for the new head coach. Davis is thrilled to have a defensive-minded coach at the helm.

“I love him. I love everything about him. I love his personality, his intensity and what he brings to the locker room and in the meeting room,” Davis said. “I love seeing him getting fired up when we make a play in practice. He knows the defense, and if something isn’t right, he’s stopping the play making sure we’re right.”

This mentality is also helping the leaders in the locker room keep the team on track, Marshall added.

“I think with our leadership, nobody is letting anything slide. We don’t want to be 9-7. That’s not us,” Marshall said, adding that the Broncos still believe they are the best in the AFC West and anything less is unacceptable. “I think our leaders are doing a good job of stepping up, not letting anything slide, getting their own individual groups ready and together. ...I feel like it’s going to be a good year.”

Time to put your helmet on, buckle it up and hit ‘em in the face.