By Justin Adams
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) – With the Denver Broncos training camp underway, let’s take a look at each position. Here’s a peek at the linebackers.
In the Hunt:
Keishawn Bierria, 2nd season
Todd Davis, 6th season
Joe Dineen, rookie
Josey Jewell, 2nd season
Joseph Jones, 3rd season
Josh Watson, rookie
Alexander Johnson, rookie
Bradley Chubb, 2nd season
Ahmad Gooden, rookie
Jeff Holland, 1st season
Von Miller, 9th season
Malik Reed, rookie
Aaron Wallace, 3rd season
Justin Hollins, rookie
Dekoda Watson, 10th season
Projected Starters: Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, Josey Jewell, Todd Davis
For much of Vic Fangio’s coaching career, the linebackers have been his masterpiece. From the the Saints “Dome Patrol,” which was the only linebacker unit in NFL history to send all players to the Pro Bowl in 1992, to the Chicago Bears defense which caused the most turnovers in the league last year.
The Broncos hired Fangio to stabilize not only the team, but rebooting a once dominate defense. Von Miller begins his ninth season after racking up 14.5 sacks last year. Bradley Chubb will look to avoid a sophomore slump after recording 12 sacks last season.
The biggest question mark comes at inside linebacker where Josey Jewell and Todd Davis are slated to be the starters. Davis led the team with 114 tackles and also added one interception last year but got injured on Day 1 of camp and won’t be practicing again until sometime in August. Jewell started nine games and had 58 tackles in his rookie season.
Reserves: Dekoda Watson, Jeff Holland, Justin Hollins, Keishawn Bierria, Joseph Jones, Joe Dineen
The Broncos traded for Dekoda Watson in the offseason, bring back the special teams ace who played with the team in 2016. Joining him on special teams will be Joseph Jones and Keishawn Bierria.
Justin Hollins was the teams fifth round draft pick and will play both outside and inside linebacker positions. Jeff Holland will look to solidify his backup spot as the pass rusher after appearing in three games last year.
Best Training Camp Battle: Backup Inside Linebacker (Joe Dineen vs Alexander Johnson)
With the starting inside linebackers of Josey Jewell and Todd Davis in place, the backup inside linebacker position is wide open. Alexander Johnson spent the majority of last season on the practice squad, only appearing in one game against the Houston Texans.
Joe Dineen is an undrafted free agent pickup from the Kansas Jayhawks. Last season, he averaged 12.2 tackles per game, which was the most in the Big 12 Conference. If he could continue to rack up the tackles in preseason play and display some coverage skills, then he has a great shot to make the final roster.
Under the Radar: Malik Reed
One player who could surprise many is Malik Reed. The undrafted free agent from Nevada racked up eight sacks in his final year in college and will challenge Jeff Holland for the backup outside linebacker role.
Stats to Know:
– Von Miller and Bradley Chubb had a combined 26.5 sacks. The second-highest duo behind Kansas City Chiefs Chris Jones and Dee Ford who had 28.5 sacks.
– Broncos gave up the seventh most yards to tight ends last season (1,035 yards).
What They Said: Joe Flacco on Von Miller
“He is special, and we have a couple of guys on our defense. It’s not just him, but the things that he can do to get around the edge and I think some of the things Vic’s going to have him doing defense—it’s really impressive what he can do, how he’s built.”
BRONCOS TRAINING CAMP: See All Of Justin Adams’ Position Breakdowns