This is the NFL offseason, the time between OTAs and training camp, when players flee to exotic landscapes for one last vacation before the hard work continues, and when fans hope and pray they don’t see their favorite player’s name and “arrested” in the same sentence.

We often say that the NFL season never stops, and that’s mostly true, but if it ever did, it would be during these few weeks in June and July.

Fortunately, that gives us some time to regroup, take stock of the Broncos’ draft and free agent class, and look forward to training camp. In the next few weeks, we’ll be publishing positional previews three times a week in preparation for the franchise’s run towards a fourth championship.

In defensive coordinator Wade Phillip’s 3-4 scheme, there are two starting inside linebackers. The Denver Broncos lost one of them, Danny Trevathan, this past offseason in free agency to the Chicago Bears and didn’t sign or draft a replacement for him. That means that the Broncos think they have the answer for his replacement within.

Will they look to replace Trevathan with one person or go with a committee?

Projected Depth Chart:


Brandon Marshall
Todd Davis


Corey Nelson
Zaire Anderson


Dwayne Norman

Frank Shannon

Biggest Question: Will Todd Davis be a serviceable replacement for Danny Trevathan?

As a sixth-round pick, the Broncos couldn’t have asked more from Trevathan, but the NFL’s hard salary cap forces teams to make difficult decisions and letting Trevathan leave in free agency was one of them. However, the Broncos did this without much hesitation because they were very confident in one of the backups: Todd Davis.

If you ask a casual fan about Davis, there is a chance that they will have no idea who he is. If you ask the Broncos defensive coaches, they’ll rave about him. In just a short period of time it becomes obvious that the Broncos have been grooming Davis to be a starter for quite some time.

The undrafted player out of Sacramento State not only has the physical tools to succeed in this fast defense, but also the attitude. On the field, Phillips compares Davis’s intensity to the likes of former Buffalo Bill Chris Spielman and Phillips has been impressed with what he’s seen in Davis’s limited playing action.

“He’s a good football player. He played well for us last year,” Phillips said.

Although on the smaller side for inside linebackers, Davis can play in nearly every formation and package, including goal-line. Even though Davis will be the starter during the year, the Broncos will likely rotate Corey Nelson and Zaire Anderson in to keep everyone fresh. With that being said, expect Davis’s defensive snaps to increase from the 11 percent he had last year to around 75 percent.

During Davis’ first full year as a starter, it isn’t fair to hold him to the same standards of Marshall or Trevathan, but don’t expect too much of a drop off in performance.

Most-Important Player: Brandon Marshall

After treating the insider linebacker position like a revolving door — letting Wesley Woodyard walk after the 2013 season after leading the team in tackles in 2012 and letting Trevathan leave after leading the team in tackles last year — general manager John Elway decided Marshall was worth keeping.

After showing up to OTAs all offseason without having signed his second-round tender, Elway showed Marshall the money — $32 million over four years. While the contract doesn’t kick in, except the signing bonus, until 2017, Elway showed his utmost confidence in Marshall.

Last season Marshall started every game for the Broncos despite recovering from Lisfranc surgery the entire season. This means that Marshall played every game with discomfort and pain and still was a dominant force on the best defense in the league.

With the raise in money comes a raise in expectations, but Marshall is more than ready for the increased pressure.

“I will earn every penny [of the contract],” Marshall said at his press conference after signing his new contract.

With a cast of younger and inexperienced players surrounding Marshall at the other inside linebacker position, Marshall will need to not only take the lead on the field, but off the field as well. This offseason he has already proved that he is capable of taking an increased leadership role and showing how to act like a professional.

If Marshall is able to continue to raise his game, it will take the pressure off of the younger players filling in for Trevathan without the insider linebacker position missing a beat.

The only risk with Marshall is his ability to stay healthy. While he did show incredible toughness last season playing through his Lisfranc recovery, it always seems like his name appears in the injury report. As long as he can stay on the field, the Broncos will be just fine at insider linebacker thanks to Marshall.

Surprise Player: Zaire Anderson

Unless the Broncos sign an inside linebacker late in the offseason, Zaire Anderson is in the driver’s seat to land a spot on the 53-man roster. As an undrafted player out of Nebraska last year, Anderson earned a spot on the Broncos’ practice squad.

During training camp and preseason, Anderson continuously impressed fellow players and coaches with his play, especially for a rookie. One could assume that the Broncos were more comfortable letting Trevathan go, knowing that they had solid depth at inside linebacker, with Anderson being a key piece of that.

It seems like Davis will be the starter going into 2016, but that doesn’t mean that Anderson can’t earn playing time. If Anderson has a similar training camp and preseason like he did last year, expect to hear his more on game day and potentially play as much as 10 to 20 percent of the snaps.

Over the past few years the Broncos have found talent out of relative unknown players. Anderson may have his shot at this in the coming years.

Grade: B

A “B” grade is actually very impressive considering half of the starters for this position, Davis, have only started four career games.

If Davis steps up like Woodyard, Trevathan and Marshall have done in the past, the inside linebackers will again be a strength in the middle of this excellent defense. However, if the Broncos don’t find a gem in Davis, the position will still be fine as Marshall is one of the best in the business.