Denver Broncos Not Waiting on Nate Irving's Development? Add Four Rookie LBs
The Denver Broncos’ third-round draft pick out of North Carolina State, Nate Irving is facing some heavy competition for even a roster spot in 2012 as the Broncos have brought in four young rookies who will also be competing to secure a spot on the roster.
The Broncos only draft pick at linebacker was their sixth-round find in Danny Trevathan, however, Fox, Elway and likely Jack Del Rio found some special talent that went undrafted this year picking up three other talented players at linebacker: Elliot Coffey (Kentucky), Jerry Franklin (Arkansas) and Steven Johnson (Kansas).
Picking Irving in the third round, the Broncos had high expectations for Irving, who has yet to really make an impact during his one season. Another prospect that didn’t really catch on for the Broncos was their sixth-round selection from last year in Mike Mohamed. He saw some play time during the course of year but was unspectacular.
Both of those guys appear on the bubble to make the roster this season as the Broncos have brought in four rookie prospects to compete for a position in 2012 and they look to steal both Mohamed and Irving’s jobs.
Let’s get to know the latest prospects added to the Broncos’ stable of linebackers.
Danny Trevathan, Kentucky
Danny Trevathan is 6’1” 232 pounds. He was a two-season starter at weak side linebacker. The same position D.J. Williams plays, who is in the process of appealing a performance enhancing drug policy violation by the league. Word around the league believes that Williams will play all season next year with a stay similar to the Star Caps violations by the Vikings' Pat and Kevin Williams, who were permitted to play a full season while the appeal was being heard.
If Williams loses his appeal and the suspension is enforced, it will likely be a combination of Trevathan and fellow Kentucky alumnus, Wesley Woodyard who will fill in this season.
Trevathan excelled in tackling during his time at Kentucky. The past two seasons at Kentucky he led the SEC in tackles with 143 tackles as a senior and 144 tackles as a junior. Some regard Trevathan as “one of the toughest hitters in the Southeastern Conference.” Now, that’s a major accomplishment. In his entire collegiate career he played in 51 games and finished with 198 solo tackles. He had six sacks and 11 forced fumbles. He was a beast on defense.
He appears to be a great fit in Denver on defense as he admires Woodyard and would be a great fit on special teams if no spot opens for him in the starting rotation:
Wesley Woodyard, another Kentucky alumnus. "I never got to play with Wesley," Trevathan said. "But I think our football styles are similar. I strive to be a leader like him."
Jerry Franklin, Arkansas
Jerry Franklin was a special talent at Arkansas. He is stout and thick at 6’1” and 245 pounds. He is an excellent inside and is an attacker who thrives between the tackles. He goes through blockers instead of trying to find his way around them. He can fill holes, pile up offensive linemen and stop the run by stopping blockers momentum dead in their tracks.
He is also able to drop into coverage from his linebacker position and can pick up offensive targets in his zone. Franklin looks very promising for the Broncos maybe stealing Irving’s job, or even competing for the recently re-signed Joe Mays’ position at inside linebacker.
Overall, Franklin is a raw talent who has some developing to do in certain areas of his game. He seems to play with just one gear, doesn’t always generate the type of burst you want to see when attacking a hole. However, he is a great cover linebacker who would be of great value against top tight ends like Aaron Hernandez or Rob Gronkowski on the New England Patriots, who frequently victimized the Broncos.
Steven Johnson, Kansas
Steven Johnson is a scrappy prospect who has worked his way up the ladder and into the NFL. He is a former walk-on who became the Big 12’s leading tackler in 2011 while serving as a team captain during his senior year.
Johnson is likely a two-down linebacker primarily in the game on obvious run plays. He has consistently excelled at stopping the run and has amassed some big games racking up tackles. He had double digit tackles in eight out of the 12 games Kansas played in 2011.
His biggest game came against Texas when he recorded a career-high 18 tackles, the most by any Kansas player since 2003. He was instrumental throughout his career in big games. Adding Johnson will be instrumental in improving the Broncos run defense in 2012.
Elliot Coffey, Baylor
Elliot Coffey out of Baylor is more of a depth guy for the Broncos. He was a four-year letterman and two-year starting linebacker at Baylor University where he earned second-team All-Big 12 honors from Waco Tribune-Herald and honorable mention from league coaches and Associated Press.
He had a great performance in this season’s Valero Alamo Bowl, where he earned the Defensive MVP. In 2011, Coffey led the team with 114 total tackles (55 solo) and ranked fourth in Big 12 with 8.8 tackles-per-game.
Coffey will compete in training camp, but his chances of making it in an already deep linebacker class look slim.