For many years, the Denver Broncos’ defense has been known primarily for its dominant secondary. However, in more recent times, it’s the Broncos linebackers who are generating hype heading into the season.
According to Chris Wesseling of NFL.com, the Broncos linebacker unit was ranked number one in the NFL. The Broncos edged out the second-ranked Chicago Bears, who recently completed a blockbuster trade for All-Pro outside linebacker Khalil Mack.
Leading the way to NFL.com’s top spot spot is All-Pro linebacker Von Miller. Miller is arguably the best defensive player in the NFL and Broncos history. In his seven-year career, Miller has been nominated to six Pro Bowls, a three-time All-Pro, and named MVP of Super Bowl 50. Miller’s presence alone would have placed the Broncos on this list.
However, Denver boasts a talented rotation of outside linebackers that make the unit ranked the best in the NFL. Lining up opposite of Miller this year is first round rookie Bradley Chubb. According to most draft scouts, Chubb was often dubbed as the best defensive player in the draft. Chubb fell to the Broncos with the fifth pick, giving the Broncos a lethal pass rush.
Behind Miller and Chubb are former first-round pick Shane Ray, and perhaps the most underrated player on the Broncos defense, Shaquil Barrett. Both players would likely be starters on other teams that didn’t also house a top-five draft pick and a perennial All-Pro. With two talented players as rotational depth outside linebackers, the Broncos outside linebackers are truly worthy of the No. 1 spot.
Denver also possesses a talented inside linebacker unit to complement their all-star outside linebackers. Returning to their starting inside linebacker roles are Brandon Marshall and Todd Davis. Marshall will look to follow up on his successful 2017 season, where he led the Broncos defense in tackles (75). In addition to Marshall, Davis has continued to produce great results for the Broncos; he finished second on the team in tackles in 2016 and has been nominated as a defensive captain for the upcoming season.
Behind Davis and Marshall might be ahead of the best-kept secret in the NFL at linebacker: Rookie Josey Jewell. Despite a successful career at Iowa, Jewell fell to the fourth round of the NFL Draft. Most scouts saw Jewell as too small and too slow for the NFL. However, Jewell has since silenced his critics, leading the Broncos in tackles in the preseason with 23 total. It’s still early, but if Jewell continues to shine, he might be the future for the Broncos at inside linebacker.
While the Broncos have lost much of their defensive talent over the past two seasons, a star-studded linebacker corps could be the key for the team to remain a top five defensive unit.