One noticeable void on the Denver Broncos’ defense NOT due necessarily to injury within the season was at inside linebacker, where Denver tried using both Wesley Woodyard and Paris Lenon throughout the season, and they couldn’t find a great combination.
Shockingly, a year after being one of the most productive players on the team, Woodyard couldn’t make the position switch and was eventually benched. With Woodyard hitting free agency as well as Lenon, the Broncos are in the market for a new inside linebacker.
The hope in 2011 was that third round pick Nate Irving was going to take that spot and there’s still a chance he may. I guess injuries did play a bit of a role in that, being that Von Miller’s absence and the injury in the offseason to Stewart Bradley prompted all this.
The jury is still out on Irving, who showed some flashes this past year of the kind of player the Broncos had hoped he would be when they drafted him. He will likely have a crack at the starting inside linebacker spot but that doesn’t mean the Broncos won’t look for someone else to provide some competition.
That guy could come via free agency and one player I like for that spot is Daryl Smith, a former Jack Del Rio pupil who played last season with the Baltimore Ravens after spending his entire career with the Jaguars.
In the draft, there are plenty of options at inside linebackers. Some people think the Broncos might try and trade up for C.J. Mosley (not me, at least right now) and there are some who believe they could wait until the mid-late rounds.
Regardless of when–or if–the Broncos take an inside linebacker, the fact is they are looking hard at the position and at least doing due diligence on this year’s crop of prospects.
Two players in particular that the Broncos are looking at are Kentucky’s Avery Williamson and Montana’s Jordan Tripp. Both players are projected mid-round picks, and at the inside linebacker spots both ran very good 4.66-4.67 40 yard dashes.
Both players were very productive in college, Tripp having played at an FCS school and Williamson playing in the SEC. Williamson is intriguing because the Broncos have had wild success with underrated Wildcat linebackers, grooming Danny Trevathan and Wesley Woodyard into very productive players.
Tripp is an interesting prospect because at 6’3″ 236 pounds, he has intriguing size, speed, and athletic ability, and he was selected as an All-American this past season. He also grew up a Broncos fan, so that’s a major plus in my book.
These are very intriguing prospects, players the Broncos have met with at the Scouting Combine. Players at the Combine will meet with most teams for what it’s worth, but this gives them a chance to narrow their list and set up individual workouts and private meetings.