Aug 8, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams running back Chase Reynolds (34) is stopped by New Orleans Saints linebacker Todd Davis (95) during the second half at Edward Jones Dome. The Saints defeated the Rams 26-24. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
John Elway has been collecting young linebackers since earning the right to pick the Denver Broncos’ players, and that continued on Thursday when he placed Nate Irving on injured reserve and claimed linebacker Todd Davis from the New Orleans Saints off of waivers.
A rookie out of Sacramento State, Davis made the Saints’ practice squad out of camp and wound up on their active roster, playing special teams and seeing a few snaps defensively as well. He’s a pretty natural middle linebacker prospect with good instincts, aggressiveness, and range, and can move around the field and around the formation. The Broncos likely saw an opportunity to get a young player here that they liked, knowing that Davis was headed back to the Saints’ practice squad later on Thursday if they did not claim him themselves.
Some might be wondering why the Broncos didn’t just sign their own linebacker — Colorado State star Shaquil Barrett — off of the practice squad. While Barrett has played some middle linebacker in his football career, he is a natural pass rushing linebacker and the Broncos likely don’t view him as real depth at the inside spot.
If Davis were pressed, he could probably contribute at middle linebacker but the Broncos will use him on special teams initially if anything while he gets acclimated to Jack Del Rio’s defense.
Davis has poor timed speed, but is a big, strong athlete who plays aggressively and attacks the football. He was a tackling machine at Sacramento State, leading the team in that category every year for three straight years. He finished off his senior season with 131 tackles and brings the Broncos a physical presence to develop at a position with some really intriguing young players. In addition to star pass rusher Von Miller, the linebacker position has been one the Broncos have focused completely on home grown talent with.
Along with Miller, the Broncos have either drafted or signed as an undrafted free agent Danny Trevathan and Nate Irving (both on IR), Lerentee McCray, Steven Johnson, Lamin Barrow, Corey Nelson, and Shaquil Barrett. Starting weak side linebacker Brandon Marshall — who replaced Danny Trevathan — was signed to the practice squad last year after just one year in the league with other teams.