How good is the Denver Broncos’ linebacker group? Very good. If all of the pieces come together, what was a relative area of weakness in 2013, because of injuries and suspensions, could become one of the team’s strengths.
Let’s take a look at the projected starting lineup.
SAM Linebacker, Texas A & M
In his first 2 seasons in the league, Miller racked up 30 sacks. He broke Simon Fletcher’s franchise sack record in 2012 with 18.5. With Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors both years, he was taking the league by storm. Last offseason, he was the recipient of a suspension handed down by the Ginger Hammer for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He missed the first 6 games of 2013 as a result. When he did return, he was dominant, as usual, but tore his ACL in week 16 vs the Houston Texans. All reports out of Dove Valley on his recovery have been great and we’re all looking forward to seeing him return to form. When he’s healthy, he is arguably the most fearsome pass rusher in the NFL.
MIKE Linebacker, NC State
Nate Irving was drafted to be the Broncos’ Mike LB of the future. Due to many mitigating circumstances, that hasn’t happened yet. However, 2014 is Irving’s year to shine. The Broncos are giving him every chance to succeed. Irving can be a very good 2-down thumper. He’ll likely come off the field in nickel situations, as the Broncos will move T.J. Ward down into the box as nickel LB. Nonetheless, expect big things from Irving in 2014. He’s a vastly talented young player and the coaching staff believes in him.
WILL Linebacker, Kentucky
Trevathan exploded on the NFL scene in 2013 with 129 combined tackles, 2 sacks, and 3 INTs. He was given the honor and responsibility of calling the plays in the huddle, so you know that this kid is sharp. He brings speed and tenacity to the Broncos’ defense. On the edge, he excels in pursuit and rarely misses a tackle. He’s a bona fide playmake on the edge. It’s hard for 4-3 Will LBs to make the Pro Bowl, because they go against all of the 3-4 edge rushers with the sack numbers in the voting, but Trevathan is capable of producing Pro Bowl-caliber numbers year in and year out.
As a group, it doesn’t get much better than this. Yesterday, BleacherReport’s Matt Miller ranked the Broncos LB corps #7 overall in his rankings. He had this to say:
The healthy return of Von Miller will be an amazing gain for the Denver Broncos, and it will allow them to field a linebacking corps that can go toe-to-toe with almost any offense in the NFL.
Miller is a one-man wrecking crew, and on a more well-rounded defense in 2014, he has to be considered a Defensive Player of the Year candidate in the preseason. With DeMarcus Ware and Terrance Knighton drawing attention from offensive lines, Miller should see single blocking situations often.
Opposite Miller is Danny Trevathan, a former Kentucky Wildcat with exceptional agility and vision from the weak side. He’s a three-tool linebacker with the ability to stop the run, rush the passer and drop into coverage without seeing his play drop off.
The middle linebacker spot isn’t quite as defined, and there could be a competition for reps, but the Broncos are starting to develop depth and competition at a key position in John Fox’s defense.
Obviously, outside of Dove Valley and Broncos Country, there isn’t a lot of faith in Nate Irving. Give it time. When training camp opens up in 8 days, we’ll get to see if the faith that the Broncos have in Irving is justified.