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Broncos roster review: Linebacker Justin Hollins

Will focus on just one position help the second year LB?

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Hollins
Experience: 2 years
Height: 6-5
Age: 24
Weight: 248 lbs
College: Oregon

The Denver Broncos rookie LB appeared on 267 defensive snaps in 2019 (25%) and 130 ST snaps (30%). The majority of his defensive snaps (192) came in the second half of the season. Despite being strictly an edge defender in college, Hollins was asked to learn the ILB position for the Broncos due to injuries and lack of depth at ILB in 2019. This appears to have stunted his growth somewhat.

According to PFR he was used in coverage ten times in 2019 allowing 8 catches for 48 yards. He was sent on a blitz 22 times, but I have no idea how often he was lined up at OLB and used to rush the passer (which is not blitzing). He was credited with 21 total tackles, 1 TFL, 6 pressures (3 hurries, 2 QBKD) , 2 PBUs, and 1.0 sack. Some sites have him listed with only 4 pressures, either way he was not very effective as a pass rusher in 2019 - unless he wasn’t sent after the QB much more than those 22 times he “blitzed”. His play in the second half of the season was almost exclusively at OLB.

The good

Hollins has the physical tools to (size and strength) to be an effective OLB in the NFL. If he is allowed to focus solely on OLB I think he can be an effective backup for Von.

Cody Roark does a nice job of showing some of Hollins better plays from 2019 and analyzing his strengths. I should note that once Alexander Johnson started playing full time, Hollins hardly took any snaps at ILB. Cody’s idea about Hollins being used as the nickel/dime LB is interesting. I would think that would go to Johnson since he proved to much more instinctive in coverage in 2019 - IMO.

The bad

Hollins played the majority of his snaps as an edge defender in 2019. He was not very effective as a pass rusher generating either 4 or 6 pressures on his 267 defensive snaps. Without access to PFF, I can’t tell you how many of his snaps were run snaps and how many were pass rush snaps, but he only had ten coverage snaps. For a team that was in desperate need of a secondary edge rusher to help Von, Hollins was unable to be that guy in 2019. Maybe another year of development can allow him to develop into a viable edge pass rushing threat.

PFR also shows that Hollins missed two tackles which may not sound like much, but when you only make 21 combined tackles, two missed tackles is significant. That being said there were others on the 2019 defense who had a much higher rate of missed tackles. Bradley Chubb had eight missed tackles on 240 snaps. Adam Gotsis had four on 280 snaps. Will Parks had seven on 552 snaps. All of those guys had more frequent missed tackles than Hollins.

Final word

Justin Hollins would have to play really poorly in training camp to not make the final roster. His combination of position versatility (if he is needed to move back to ILB) and athletic ability has me hopeful that he will make a large jump in play quality in 2020 relative to 2019.