Heading into organized team activities and training camp, the Denver Broncos already have veteran linebackers Brandon Marshall and Todd Davis penciled in as their opening day starters. That’s understandable. Those two have been around the team a long time and know the playbook inside and out and have a sixth sense for what Head Coach Vance Joseph and Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods wants to do on that side of the ball.
Name: Keishawn Bierria
Position: Inside Linebacker
What the team doesn’t know for certain is who will be backing them up for the 2018 campaign. If you are a betting man — I’d throw a couple of chips in the direction of Keishawn Bierria, a very talented rookie linebacker out of the University of Washington that the franchise selected in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL Draft this past April. Given Bierria’s track record of overcoming adversity and defying the odds, you certainly don’t want to be bet against him.
One of the hardest things for rookies to handle when they get to the big leagues is the mental aspect of the game. Many are overwhelmed by the larger playbooks and immense leap in terminology, but count Bierria in as one of the rookies who is being diligent in his approach to learning as much as he can from the veterans on the roster to aid in his transition and development
“It’s NFL ball. Right now, is just the time to really focus up. It’s a lot, but that’s why we have the vets to lean on. They’re also service teachers for us too. The more time you spend with them and the more knowledge you get from them, will make it a lot easier,” he stated at the Broncos’ rookie orientation.
When I evaluated a few of his games, one of the things that stuck out to me most was how he seemed to be in on every snap — just like his 2018 draft classmate Josey Jewell. Both of them may not possess ideal athleticism teams covet at the position, but they each have incredible instincts. Truth be told, that matters a lot more in respect to being in the right place at the right time on the field.
In his games against Stanford and Penn State, he was extremely consistent in diagnosing plays against the run and had some great stops on two of last year’s best backs in the nation Bryce Love and Saquon Barkley. He also looked adept in zone coverage whether he was covering receivers or tight ends. In my opinion, he is a perfect fit for our defense and has all talent to become a starter for this team by his second season.
As outlined above, there is a lot to like about Bierria based on his top-notch collegiate resume. However, various analysts and scouts have concerns regarding his average athleticism and lack of speed, which may inhibit his ability to be a three-down defender at the professional level. I’m not overly concerned with his lack of speed because he has top notch instincts and is quick to diagnose plays on a consistent basis. Bierria has a great skill set and at worst should be a reliable back up and special teams player for the team, but I expect a lot more than that. I truly believe that the Broncos have their two future inside linebackers with Bierria and Jewell.
“I look forward to playing with everybody on this team. I watch all of them. I’ve watched numerous games. Going through college, we had the ability to watch NFL film and I always watch this defense. It’s a great, high flying and great energy type of defense. They play a very sound defense. I’m excited to be around all of these guys.” — Bierria during the Broncos’ 2018 rookie orientation
With long-time veterans Marshall and Davis atop the inside linebacker depth chart, one of the key training camp battles to keep your eye on is who will earn their spot behind them for the 2018 season. The franchise has a couple of young players like Zaire Anderson and Jerrol Garcia-Williams who have experience on the team, but I believe that Bierria and Jewell will be the two young prospects to earn a spot on the final 53 man roster.