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Kenny Young trade looks like a smart move for George Paton

With the Broncos’ injuries at linebacker, George Paton might have struck gold by trading for Kenny Young

Rams, Bucaneers, NFL Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

This past week, the Denver Broncos and the Los Angeles Rams agreed on a trade for linebacker Kenny Young. The Rams sent Young and a 2024 7th-round pick to Denver for a 6th-round 2024. Yeah. Who knows.

When the trade was announced, it felt like an odd move for the Los Angeles Rams. Kenny Young came across as if he was blindsided (and unlike Jared Goff, he really was). The Rams cited the reason as “financial” but even with that, it’s hard to understand the rationale. The real reason, of course, was because they want to play their rookie third-round pick LB Ernest Jones. Don’t forget, the Rams got Kenny Young as part of the Marcus Peters trade.

It’s surprising because Kenny Young was playing well for the Rams. He was...really the only linebacker playing for the Rams. Young played 346 defensive snaps for the Rams this season. The only other “linebacker” over 300 snaps was edge rusher Leonard Floyd. The next two inside linebackers are Troy Reeder at 178 and Ernest Jones at 45. Young was in on 81% of defensive snaps.

Young has 46 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, and a forced fumble on the season. He’s recorded 9 pressures including 2 sacks on 32 pass-rush snaps. All of those stats would be among the tops of the Broncos defense, for reference. He’s only missed 3 tackles on the season so far, something that the rest of the Broncos defense has struggled with this season.

For the most part, Kenny Young might just be the guy for what the Broncos need the rest of this season at linebacker.

While he isn’t an elite linebacker, Young would certainly meet the guidelines for good. It’s why this move is so puzzling when speaking to many Rams fans. It’s not like the Rams are working with a cabinet full of good linebackers, and Young was one of their only consistent defenders.

As a run defender, Young isn’t the best at taking on and deconstructing blocks, but he’s got a good head on his shoulders and can quickly ID plays to shoot through and be in the right spot to generate a stop. Ideally, he’d be asked most to be a pursuit-style backer in Denver, where he can use his athleticism and quickness to chase down plays in the run game and stretch runs out for minimal gain. Young’s ability in this area was a big reason why the Rams have been comfortable playing lighter boxes and would often play him as the only linebacker in their 5-1 front looks.

In coverage, Young’s awareness stands out. He’s pretty much always in the right spot and has some pretty good eyes in coverage. While he shouldn’t be asked to carry the #3 in man coverage like a Fred Warner, Young can turn and run in man and carry guys upfield if need be. The quickness of Young shows up in coverage often as well, and he has the athleticism to cover a good amount of ground as well. On passing downs, Fangio can also get creative with Kenny Young as a blitzer, something this Denver defense has been sorely missing.

All of these traits flashed on film every week. It’s not like Kenny Young is coming off of a bad game or a bad season. He looked like he was on the verge of a breakout season for LA this year, a team that seemingly hasn’t had good linebacker play since James Laurinaitis!

Young won’t fix all of the problems on this Denver defense. However, his play, if it translates, brings something that this Denver defense has been missing recently. It’s not a splashy move that many Denver fans are probably hoping for, but it certainly looks like a smart one.

Denver got a good starting-caliber linebacker for a sixth-round pick in 2024. A steal and a half. While searching for copper to fill in the Broncos’ hole at linebacker, George Paton might have struck gold.