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Denver Broncos' position battles: Tough decisions loom at inside linebacker

Ken Pomponio Avatar
July 25, 2015


With the opening of training camp less than a week away, BSN Denver is offering a series of articles previewing the battles for roster spots at various positions. We’ve already examined the wide receivers and running backs and we now continue with the linebackers.

Locks: OLBs Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, Shane Ray; ILBs Danny Trevathan, Brandon Marshall

In Miller, Ware and Ray – paired with a more aggressive defensive coordinator in Wade Phillips – the Broncos have the makings of a pass-rushing blitzkrieg. That is if Miller’s 2013 troubles stay in 2013, Ware has another high-level season left at age 33 and Ray can take a step forward from his foot issues and make an immediate impact as a rookie.

On the inside, Trevathan and Marshall are both coming off injury-addled 2014 campaigns, but they’ve led the team in tackles, respectively, in each of the past two seasons and will give the Broncos a potent, play-making 1-2 punch on the inside if their knee and foot injuries, respectively, are truly healed.

Sold Shots: ILB Steven Johnson, OLB Lerentee McCray

Johnson proved to be a valuable insurance policy last season with Trevathan and Marshall in and out of the lineup, making seven starts. He also was one of the Orange and Blue’s best special-teams players, finishing second on the squad with 11 special-teams tackles as part of 39 total tackles overall.

McCray, meanwhile, is the most proven backup on the outside and showed flashes of play-making potential with eight tackles, a sack and a forced fumble in limited playing time a year ago.

On the Bubble: OLBs Shaquil Barrett, Chase Vaughn, Kenny Anunike, Zaire Anderson; ILBs Reggie Walker, Todd Davis, Lamin Barrow, Corey Nelson, Danny Mason

In switching to a 3-4, the Broncos figure to keep eight (and possibly nine in a pinch) linebackers on their final 53-man roster.

And with a little basic math, counting the five roster locks and the pair of solid shots, that leaves us with one – and maybe two – more roster spots to work with.

On the outside, the former Colorado State standout Barrett has the best shot out of the remaining bunch of making the cut after spending most of last season on the practice squad.

Inside, though, the Broncos have more options – and thus will face some tougher decisions.

A newcomer looks to have the early edge on the inside. Walker is a free-agent signee from San Diego who has six seasons of NFL experience. He made six starts in two seasons with the Chargers and notched 48 total tackles and 3.5 sacks.

Davis, meanwhile, is a former New Orleans Saints’ practice squad player who made three fill-in starts late last season and finished with 25 total tackles.

Barrow, a fifth-round pick last year, made one start and finished third on the squad with eight special-teams tackles. That figures – at least heading into camp and the preseason – to give him a narrow edge over Nelson, a fellow 2014 late-round draftee.


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