In the eleventh of Thin Air’s series on previewing 2017’s training camp for the Broncos is a look at inside linebackers.
The inside linebacker stable is fairly well stocked, but questions can still linger as one goes deeper in the depth chart.
It’s clear that Marshall is far and away the leading player among inside linebackers. When he was healthy in 2014 and 2015, Marshall logged over 80% of the defensive snaps. When he missed five games in 2016, it resulted in only 52% of the snaps logged, and may have contributed to any of the few defensive problems the Broncos may have had that year. Clearly, getting a healthy Marshall back up to that 80% snap level will be helpful and expected.
Todd Davis and Corey Nelson
Replacing Danny Trevathan in 2016 largely came down to a tag team of Davis and Nelson respectively answering the call on for running and passing downs. It should be noted that when the Broncos go into a nickel formation in the defensive backfield, it’s the second inside linebacker position that’s likely coming off the field. So a platoon option in 2017 should be able to work again.
But it should also be noted that both Davis and Nelson will become unrestricted free agents at the end of this season. This should keep the Broncos and their observers looking to see whether their play in 2017 merits enough for extensions, and it not, to be on the lookout for future replacements at the position.
Anderson would be the first internal player up should Davis or Nelson go down in 2017, or leave in 2018. Anderson spent 2015 on the practice squad and 2016 on the active roster, but with only 5% of the defensive snaps to show for it. Thus, Anderson is still much of an unknown to the outside world. He did play over half of the special teams snaps last year, a trait that is practically required for a backup linebacker to make the roster. So the value to the team is there–the question will be if his value increases to a significant level in 2017.
Quentin Gause, Kevin Snyder, Josh Banderas, and Jerrol Garcia-Williams
Gause and Snyder have bounced around multiple practice squads in their young NFL careers, while Banderas and Garcia-Williams are undrafted rookies. A practice squad position in 2017 should be a reasonable prize of competition for this group, and if any prove their worth in a relatively exceptional manner, they could see a longer future in Denver with the uncertain status of Davis and Nelson beyond 2017.