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Forget NASCAR, the Broncos are trying to take things to the next level

Zac Stevens Avatar
June 29, 2018

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos are absolutely stacked with talented at the outside linebacker position.

Along with three first-round picks—two of them being in the Top 5—they struck gold with an undrafted player, Shaq Barrett, who blossomed to be nearly as valuable, if not as valuable, as a first-round pick.

In the past, when it was DeMarcus Ware, another former first-round pick, instead of Bradley Chubb, John Elway’s new shiny addition in 2018, Denver went to the “NASCAR” formation to get as many outside linebacking playmakers on the field as possible.

The only problem with this specialized NASCAR package is it only gets three outside backers on the field at once.

The Broncos currently have four that deserve playing time.

Apparently, defensive coordinator Joe Woods and defensive-minded head coach Vance Joseph have found a tweak even to the already-specialized NASCAR formation that could allow all four pass rushers to be on the field at the same time. And they broke it out this offseason.

“Shaq has played SAM and WILL for us, he’s playing some off-the-ball backer also in our dime package,” Joseph explained in classic football lingo.

Along with his typical position—SAM outside linebacker, otherwise known as the strong-side outside backer—that he’s played since going undrafted in 2014 out of Colorado State, Barrett has been dabbling at the inside linebacker position this offseason, more specifically the WILL, or weak-side inside backer.

If the Broncos stick with this throughout training camp and the preseason, think about what could happen. Denver could have Chubb as a down lineman, Von Miller and Shane Ray as traditional outside backers and Barrett off the ball as an inside backer all at the same time—putting four starting-caliber, and potentially dangerous, pass rushers on the field all at once.

Watch out, quarterbacks.

“Shaq has had a good offseason so far,” Joseph said, praising the fifth-year pro during the team’s mandatory minicamp days before the offseason conditioning program ended. “I think Shaq can be a special player. He’s shown over the years that the more he plays, the more plays he can make. I’m excited to see Shaq get more opportunities because, in my mind, he can be a top-tier rusher in this league.”

And remember, Shaq is the only one of the four that wasn’t a first-round pick.

Oh, and don’t forget about the man that “blew people away” during the offseason—undrafted rookie Jeff Holland.

“The biggest thing is making plays between the white lines. We record all of the positive [plays] that guys make, and right now he’s blowing people away,” Woods said, delivering potentially his highest praise of the offseason to the undrafted rookie. “He had a big day at the end of OTAs, but right now he’s leading the charge. We just need to see what he does in training camp and in the preseason.”

With a similar style of game and build as Barrett—Shaq is listed at 6-foot-2, 250 pounds and Holland is listed at 6-foot-2, 249 pounds—along with being undrafted players with significant production in college, it’s easy to make a comparison between the two pass rushers.

When asked if Holland can have a similar career as Barrett, Woods simply left it at, “You never know.”

If the Broncos’ new package of four outside linebackers on the field at once—call it Formula 1, as has been deemed by BSN Denver—works swimmingly, why not try and get all five on the field, that is if Holland makes the team, of course.

Baby steps, Zac, baby steps.


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