By now it’s common knowledge that Vic Fangio cut his teeth coaching linebackers. It’s also no secret that some of the best linebacker corps in NFL history found their greatest success with him calling the shots. From there, it’s simple math for fans to surmise that the Broncos will need to add talent to the current group headlined by Todd Davis and Josey Jewell. Unfortunately, this may not be the best draft to chase after an impact ‘backer. In fact, The Draft Network only lists two players among the 50 best prospects.
If the Broncos want someone to step in from day one, they may need to zero in on Devin White or Devin Bush immediately. But who’s the better option?
I’ve gone back and forth on this one so much I have to call it a push. Initially, I loved White’s ability to react to the ball, especially against play action. In short yardage situations he has a preternatural feel for making the stop, such as the Ole Miss game.
I do think Bush has been criticized a bit too much here. Yes, there are times you catch Bush guessing where the ball is going, but he’s in the right place at the right time far more often than not. He isn’t on White’s level against ball fakes, but the right coach will be able to hone his radar at the next level.
This goes to Bush and it isn’t particularly close. White isn’t soft by any means, but Bush loves to hit and brings a level of violence to the position that sets a tone.
Point of attack
This is also a clear win for the Michigan man. Bush looks far more comfortable attacking downhill and meeting blockers in the hole. Those that love him as the superior Devin will point to this as one reason why. He does the “linebacker things” really well.
At the same time, there are times when he gets tangled up with blockers and doesn’t actively disengage. Because of this, he’s effectively blocked and left to chase down plays from behind. Some have this firmly down as an “undersized” problem you’ll get with Bush, but it’s probably something that will improve with coaching.
There are times when White looks like he can sift through blockers like they’re little more than nuisances, but there’s also his Alabama and Georgia tape. In both games, the opposing teams ran right at him and found success. The Tide in particular really exposed him.
This also goes to Bush. White has improved in this area as 2018 went on, but Bush looks more natural wrapping up the ball-carrier. Multiple scouting reports suggest that Bush will struggle at times due to his length, but I personally believe that’s a bit overblown. White is all of 2 inches taller and his arms 1/8 of an inch longer.
Both Devin’s have the kind of athletic tools to suggest they will be sideline to sideline players in the NFL, but Devin White pops off the tape here. This is no slight at Bush, but one of the things that really excite about the Tiger is how darn twitchy he is.
This is a strength of both players’ games, but Devin Bush is a special talent rushing the passer. He does a good job of disguising his intentions and finding a way to make himself felt when he’s coming. Michigan’s Defensive Coordinator Don Brown knew what he had and utilized Bush’s talents to full effect.
I do think both will become weapons for the coordinators that inherit them, though.
It’s close, but White looks like the superior coverage player. He wasn’t challenged as often as Bush was, but his quick twitch athleticism really showed through on tape. Both players look more than capable of running with backs into the flats. They also have the athletic profile to suggest each has a ton of potential as coverage defenders.
Meanwhile, the Michigan defensive scheme called on Bush to man up on receivers in space from time to time. He won some and lost some, but the fact that Michigan’s coordinator trusted him out wide says a lot. How they perform in this area as pros will have as much to do with the coaches they learn under as anything else.
I suspect White will be a better coverage player from day 1, specifically against play action passes. They’ll both bite on the fake every now and then, but White is so quick to shift gears that it can go unnoticed. Bush may go through a bit of an adjustment in this regard, but he has the tools to become a dynamic coverage linebacker. He looks comfortable in all sorts of coverage assignments and has the kind of fluidity to find success in deep drops.
Back when I first wrote about Devin White, I had this to say:
Long term the defense is going to prioritize linebackers that look a lot like White. They’re the key component of the Fangio system and elite athletes at the position make everything easier. He uses them as Swiss Army knives. Sometimes they’ll blitz, sometimes they’ll cover, but they need to be able to shred anything that makes it to them.
That’s as true for Devin Bush as it is for White. The reality is the Broncos D would become awfully exciting with either. It’s a bit of a surprise that Denver did not speak with Bush at the Combine because he looks like such a clean projection of Fangio’s defense.
In fact, the difference between the two most likely comes down to the mythical P-word: potential. We’re at that time of year where decision makers fall for guys who could potentially grow into whatever they dream of. That’s where White really benefits. He is so sudden that you can’t help but watch him and dream of the kind of 3 down stud all the best defenses in NFL history posses.
Meanwhile, Bush is seen in some circles as the undersized guy because he’s an inch shorter and 3 pounds lighter than his counterpart. My hope is that Denver can overlook these physical qualities, because he’s every bit as exciting on tape and probably has the higher floor. This Bronco’s fan would be perfectly happy if either Devin dons the orange and blue for the next decade.