One of the most competitive positions in the Denver Broncos training camp for 2014 are the linebackers. While they have a couple of stars in Von Miller and Danny Trevathon, the remaining roster positions are undecided. This season the underrated middle linebacker position will be wide open for competition. It is a need the team has had for several seasons.
There are currently thirteen linebackers in camp and, if last season was any indication, six will make the final roster. Nate Irving, Miller, and Trevathon are expected to make the final cut, leaving, at most three spots available. With so many linebackers in camp, the fight for a roster spot will be intense.
Miller is the unquestioned star of the group. His ability to pressure the quarterback is second to none. He is, however, coming off an ACL tear and is being brought along slowly. The fact that he was not placed on the PUP list indicates that he should be ready to go by the season opener.
Trevathon may be the best all-around linebacker on the team. With 129 tackles last season he has become one of the defense’s leaders, and has become a three down player. Nate Irving was viewed as a top linebacker when he was drafted in 2011. He has been given several opportunities at the middle linebacker position, but has failed to secure it. Last season he moved to the outside after Miller suffered his injury. He played well, but with Miller returning he will, once again, be given the opportunity to play in the middle. Regardless of where he winds up, Irving will be one of six backers on the roster.
The remaining linebacker group is underrated and will have to fight to make the Denver Broncos 2014 roster. There is a lot of talent present and any one of them could make the team with an outstanding camp and stellar performances during the preseason games.
Before an injury landed him on injured reserve last season, Lerentee McCray was on the cusp of making the team as an undrafted free agent. He is primarily a pass rusher and is a likely backup for Miller. Steven Johnson has a good chance to make the roster again this season. He has proved to be an exceptional special teams player. Lamin Barrow was the Broncos’ fifth round draft choice this season, and he will get an opportunity to compete with Irving for the middle linebacker position. Should Denver decide to keep seven linebackers, Shaquil Barrett will have a shot at making the team. He is a pass rusher first, but has the flexibility and talent to make an impact on this team.
The remaining linebackers include Corey Nelson, Jerrell Harris, Brandon Marshall, L.J. Fort, Jamar Cheney and Chase Vaughn. These players are facing an uphill battle in making this team. They all have limited experience and will have to make a strong push on special teams to make the final roster. Of interest in this group are Brandon Marshall and Jamar Cheney. Cheney has the most NFL experience while Marshall is giving 100 percent all the time.
It will be interesting to see how the linebackers progress in this 2014 training camp. Blessed with a group of underrated players, the Denver Broncos will take a close look at all players in hopes of continuing to improve their defense.
Commentary by Hans Benes