By now, everyone in the Rocky Mountain region knows the Denver Broncos defense was historically great last season, specifically in the playoffs. Since this offseason started, the talk coming out of Dove Valley has been how this defense will be even better than last year.

The natural place to look for the increase in production is at the many Pro Bowl-caliber players on the defense — Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr. and T.J. Ward. While all of these players could potentially raise their game to an even greater level, and they all expect to, the best player to look to for this year may be one that isn’t as yet established — linebacker Brandon Marshall.

Although many national fans may still think of the Jets wide receiver initially when they hear the name, Marshall, the insider linebacker of the Broncos, has a chance to add another Pro Bowl player to this defense.

Marshall truly has the chance to jump from being a solid starter, likes he’s been, to being a force to be reckoned with in the middle of Wade Phillips’ defense. He’s already led the team in tackles two seasons ago. Last year he finished second overall, first in solo tackles and was tough in pass coverage, picking off one pass and defending four more.

Speaking to the media Wednesday during week two of OTAs, Marshall pointed to many reasons why he can take a major step this upcoming year. The first and foremost, he’s finally healthy.

“My foot feels pretty good. Actually it feels better than it has,” said Marshall. “The doctors said it usually takes a year for these injuries to heal correctly. It’s been a year and I feel really good right now.”

Marshall was referring to the Lisfranc surgery that he suffered on March 11, 2015. Even though he was still recovering from the surgery all of last season, Marshall played in every game for the Broncos, albeit in pain.

If Marshall can stay healthy and keep his foot pain-free like it is now, that could provide a significant boost in his performance on the field. On Wednesday, Marshall also said that the right index finger he recently had surgery on will be healed and ready to go by training camp.

Along with being fully healthy in the first time in over a year, Marshall will also be playing his natural position. After the Broncos let fellow starting inside linebacker Danny Trevathan go to the Chicago Bears in free agency, the position that Marshall played in college and at the start of his NFL career opened up.

“I’m in Danny’s spot… It’s almost natural,” said Marshall. “I played that spot in college. I played it the first year I started here…It’s natural to me. I played WILL or MO or whatever in college and my first couple years in the league.”

In 2014, when Marshall was playing in the position that he will be playing this upcoming season, he lead the team in tackles with 113.

Along with the potential for the on-field increase in productivity, Marshall knows his leadership role will significantly increase with Trevathan gone.

“They look to me for guidance,” said Marshall. “I’m definitely willing to help out with anybody.”

Marshall is specifically referring to younger players that will be battling it out for the open inside linebacker spot left by Trevathan.

“I talk to Todd [Davis], Corey [Nelson], Zaire [Anderson] Dwayne [Norman], Frank [Shannon]—I talk to them all the time,” said Marshall. “I just try to coach them up a little bit, and they take to it. I think they respect my word.”

Just as his play has been under the radar, Marshall’s leadership in the defense, specifically with the insider linebackers, may go relatively unnoticed due to all of the other leaders on the defense, but it will have a major impact on the entire unit.

The past two seasons Marshall has proven that he is a sure thing on the field. If he can stay healthy, Marshall is set to be the next player that can elevate this defense to new heights.