Broncos linebacking corps ranked as league’s 9th best by PFF

Alexander Johnson celebrates. Credit: Thomas J. Russo, USA TODAY Sports.
Alexander Johnson celebrates. Credit: Thomas J. Russo, USA TODAY Sports.

The Broncos linebackers have been a weak point on the defense ever since Danny Trevathan left in free agency following their Super Bowl 50 victory.

However, Pro Football Focus’ analytics project that Denver’s linebacking unit should return to form this season, as they ranked them as the league’s ninth-best group, largely thanks to the emergence of Alexander Johnson.

“One of the biggest surprises of the 2019 season was the emergence of Alexander Johnson, who finished with the top run-defense grade in the league (91.4) and the fourth-ranked overall grade (88.5),” PFF’s Steve Palazzolo wrote. “Todd Davis, the starter alongside Johnson, is one of the most consistent linebackers in the league, grading between 65.0 and 71.0 in all six years of his career. Davis is another strong run defender who helped Broncos linebackers post an 88.4 grade against the run, by far the best mark in the league among teams last season.”

With those two anchoring the middle of Denver’s defense, they should easily have one of the league’s best run-defenses. The concern with the Broncos’ linebackers is how they’ll hold up in pass coverage, though Vic Fangio’s defensive scheme should continue to put them in a position to succeed.

Rather than asking them to play man-to-man against the tight end, Fangio will ask them to cover the opposing running back, which both Davis and Johnson are plenty capable of. Another one of the strengths of Denver’s linebacking corps is the amount of depth at the position, with Josey Jewell, Justin Strnad, and Joe Jones just to name a few.

“Josey Jewell added to that, as well, with an 88.5 run-defense grade on 214 total snaps. He’ll be the top backup once again, and the key for him will be improving in coverage, where he’s struggled on 674 NFL snaps after playing well in that department in college,” wrote Palazzolo. “Denver drafted Justin Strnad in the fifth round out of Wake Forest, a productive college linebacker with multiple years of strong grades in coverage.”

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