Depth at outside linebacker is one of the big questions for the Denver Broncos.
There is the top three, and as Joe Rowles pointed out, the trio of Von Miller, Bradley Chubb and Malik Reed could be the best edge room in the NFL. Don’t forget, Reed was the Broncos’ sack leader last season.
But after those three, Vic Fangio and Denver’s defense needs someone to step up.
Derrek Tuszka has the potential to fill that spot.
#48 Derrek Tuszka, OLB
Age 22. 6’4”, 251 lbs.
College: North Dakota State
Tuszka enters his second year with the Broncos. So he knows Fangio and the system. That gives him a slight advantage over the guys he’s competing against.
Tuszka also has experience on special teams, and that’s where the fourth edge rusher will get most of his action.
In a roster battle, versatility is huge.
There’s also the traits he has an outside linebacker at North Dakota State.
From Lance Zierlein’s profile on Tuszka last year:
- Skilled with his hands as rusher
- Uses well-timed bull-rush charge to catch off-balance tackles
- Smooth punch to counter rip transition
- Stiff inside hand to post and circle over top of tackle’s pass set
The other benefit Tuszka could have is Fangio and the coaches know him. Whether that turns into a roster spot for the second-year edge, we’ll see come training camp and the preseason.
Perhaps the stiffest competition for Tuszka is Jonathon Cooper. The seventh-round pick from Ohio State, as Joe pointed out, “has good get off, motor, and hands could make him a darling this preseason. He’s a savvy player who knows how to play to his help, which should endear him to the Bill Kollar, Ed Donatell, and Fangio.”
And the issues Tuszka had are still present.
As Zierlein said in his profile, Tuszka’s lack of length and explosiveness weren’t an issue in college but will likely be exploited by NFL tackles.
The one area he likely has improved upon is the transition to a 3-4 defense.
The fourth edge rusher isn’t likely to garner much playing time or attention. But depth in the NFL is paramount to the success of a team. While the player who wins the battle for that roster spot may not get many snaps on defense, they could make their impact on special teams.
Given the fact Tuszka is in his second year, that may give him the advantage heading into training camp and the preseason.