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No Bull Roster Status Part 2: Linebackers

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A No Bull look at the current Denver Broncos roster and what needs they have going into free agency for the 2018 NFL season.

NFL: Denver Broncos-OTA Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Free agency is just around the corner for the NFL and it is a great time to take a nice long look at what the Denver Broncos have in the cupboard. Every ounce of this is my own personal opinion based off what I’ve seen from the players.

Today we’re continuing our series with our linebackers and find out what holes the Broncos should be looking to fill in the 2018 NFL offseason.

We’re going to use the following system to rank the players:

  1. Project / developmental - Not ready
  2. Backup quality - good for a spell
  3. Mediocre starter - Meh...he can play
  4. Good starter - Solid player
  5. Superb player - Playmaking stud

I’ll rate each unit as follows based off of my assessment of the individual pieces the Broncos have on hand:

  1. Blow it up - the Broncos have nothing NFL quality to work with
  2. Severely lacking at least one starter
  3. Mediocre need
  4. Solid talent and depth
  5. NFL super group

Outside Linebackers

Von Miller - 5

What needs to be said? Miller can do everything inside, outside, pass coverage, or pass rush. He sets a mean edge in the run game as well. He’s a complete player who teams scheme multiple guys against just to make sure he doesn’t wreck their game.

Shaquil Barrett - 4

Shaquil is another OLB with a complete tool belt in every facet of the game. He doesn’t get enough credit for the pass rushing talent he has, while he’s an absolute beast against the run with a great understanding of the game and how to play it. This is a player that Denver should be locking up with an extension this year.

Shane Ray - 3

Conversely, our “stud pass rusher” across from Von is shaping up into a big heaping pile of NFL mediocrity because of a huge hole in his game. Ray got gifted with some serious starting time he didn’t earn last year and in the 2 game stretch where he started over Barrett, he got consistently beat like a drum in the run game to a point where the coaches were forced into switching back. At this point, his game is so weak, I was honestly tempted to rank him a 2.

Overview - 3

I’d normally put this at a 4 due to talent levels of the starting quality players in this unit, but the contract situations have some play here in making it somewhat important for Denver to bolster the depth of this unit and look for a guy to develop for the future.

Inside Linebackers

Brandon Marshall - 3

This is really me giving Marshall the benefit of the doubt. Last year he played like a 2 all year long. Want to know why we gave so many yards up in the passing game to RBs and TEs in 2017? Look no further. Our inside linebackers were picked on in a big way and Marshall was surprisingly no exception.

Todd Davis - 2

Davis is a fairly strong player against the run, but his poor ability in pass coverage makes him a huge target when he’s on the field in passing situations. The guy plays hard and coaches love the work this guy puts in. In today’s NFL though, there’s a limit to how effective a guy like Davis can be and it really means he’s a backup-quality linebacker who sees ~½ of the snaps in a season because he’s the first guy to sit in sub packages.

Zaire Anderson - 2

I had higher hopes for Zaire after his rookie season, but sadly we didn’t see much out of him in 2017. He seems to be the kind of player built to be a flexible athletic linebacker who is great in coverage and has to work to make it work against the run, but he saw limited snaps in 2017 and never really flashed to me.

Jerrol Garcia-Williams - 1

Garcia-Williams was an undrafted free agent that the Broncos brought in last year and spent most of his time on the practice squad. He’s got the kind of prototypical size you look for in a linebacker in today’s NFL that screams development when you consider he joins us from the great state of Hawaii (not exactly known for their stellar football program).

Overview - 2

I’m darn near ready to call this a 1 and blow up the roster completely for the Broncos, but sadly the extension the Broncos gave to Brandon Marshall is going to keep that from even starting to be an option. That’s probably the biggest point I’d make about the health of this unit: It stinks to have a great player get an extension and take a big step back in his play on the field.

Add to that that the ILB position is one that Elway has historically undervalued and you have a unit that is a flat out liability on the field of play. Yes, I know that the Broncos sub out a linebacker in sub packages, but the lack of talent here is absolutely nuts to me no matter how “unimportant” the position may be to the success of the overall defense.

I don’t know if the Broncos will get a much needed infusion of talent on the inside of the front 7, but they severely need it.

Defensive roster status overall

  • Defensive Ends 4
  • Nose Tackles 4
  • Outside Linebackers 3
  • Inside Linebackers 2