Most Improved Player: LB Brandon Marshall
Sep 14, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) is sacked by Denver Broncos outside linebacker Brandon Marshall (54) in the fourth quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Chiefs 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Brandon Marshall has been quite a pleasant surprise. His production this year has been desperately needed by a Broncos team that has seen Danny Trevathan suffer two major injuries and Nate Irving lost for the year. Thankfully, Marshall is showing that he can be a starting linebacker in this league.
The 5th round pick in 2012 by Jacksonville was picked up by the Broncos in September of last year and assigned to the practice squad. After Von Miller tore his ACL in week 16, Marshall was activated the following week, playing 15 out of 63 defensive snaps in Oakland.
Fast forward almost a year later and Marshall is a staple of a Broncos league-leading run defense, aiding the Broncos to a 41-17 over those Oakland Raiders.
Marshall wasn’t expected to do much this year, but with Trevathan getting hurt in training camp, he was the next guy up. It was thought his heavy playing time was just temporary, but he improved each week, making it impossible for the coaches to keep him off the field. He’s turned himself into a reliable all around linebacker who will continue to start when Danny Trevathan comes back.
He grades out at 7.2, according to PFF, 8th among all 4-3 outside linebackers.
Marshall is just too important to leave on the sidelines.
Honorable Mention: RB Ronnie Hillman
Before the preseason, I really thought Hillman wasn’t long for the Broncos. With his fumbling issues in few carries and unpolished running style, it didn’t look like he could stay on a roster with Montee Ball and C.J. Anderson. But then preseason happened. Hillman looked like a brand new player: an actual running back and not an athlete playing running back.
This year, he’s picked up the slack after Montee Ball went down, going on to lead the Broncos in rushing with 378 yards in four starts. Unfortunately, the ankle injury he sustained on Sunday will sideline him for a few weeks. With the stable of running backs the Broncos have, he shouldn’t feel the need to rush back. His explosiveness is a crucial part to diversifying this backfield.