When Von Miller's suspension was finalized, a sudden lack of quality depth and talent in the Denver Broncos' linebacking corps became apparent.
However, luckily for the Broncos, they added an alternate option.
According to multiple sources, linebacker Paris Lenon is now on the Broncos. The former Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals linebacker will look to fill the voids left by Miller and the injured Stewart Bradley.
Bradley will likely be sidelined for Week 1, and Miller is guaranteed to miss the first six games. Denver has depth at linebacker, but it doesn't have a clear-cut starter at middle linebacker. In addition, one outside linebacker spot is up for grabs (for the first six games).
Because of Miller's suspension and Bradley's injury, Wesley Woodyard is the only definite starter at linebacker. We don't know which position he will start at, though. According to Andrew Mason of denverbroncos.com, Woodyard is seeing time at middle linebacker.
The Broncos want to see if he's comfortable there and can potentially start at the position. However, if not, the multi-talented Lenon could have a shot at the starting job.
The Broncos appeared to be fine with Nate Irving entering camp as the likely starter at middle linebacker, but Bradley wrestled the job away from him. However, Bradley likely won't start permanently. As Bronco Mike of Mile High Report noted, he is horrendous in pass coverage.
He is a liability in most facets, and while he is a good tackler, he struggles against tight ends and gives up a lot of completions. Lenon is also a good tackler, but unlike Bradley, he is a capable pass defender.
In his last three seasons, he has three interceptions and 12 passes defensed. Before the 2011 season, Doug Farrar of Yahoo Sports noted that Lenon has good instincts and can keep things intact as the sole defender in the middle. He can hold his own against the pass, and he can form a formidable tandem with Woodyard.
Woodyard is solid in coverage, but while he thrived last year, he couldn't stop everyone. Covering tight ends was a huge problem for the Broncos last year, and Lenon can help solve that problem. He could end up covering tight ends in Denver's base 4-3 package, and he will play in the 3-3-5 nickel package as well.
Denver will have Bradley, Irving, Danny Trevathan, Shaun Phillips, Steven Johnson and Lerentee McCray (provided he makes the roster) available for the first six games. Woodyard is penciled in as a starter and he will start at either outside or middle linebacker.
Phillips will likely play both defensive end and linebacker, and he will rush often; he is much better at rushing than he is at stopping the run. He should be one of Denver's linebackers in the nickel, but he could also play defensive end in that package. In the 4-3, however, he won't play linebacker.
Irving will likely start at outside linebacker, and either Trevathan or Lenon will fill the final spot in the 4-3. Trevathan will predominately play in the nickel, as he is a solid pass defender. So, Lenon could start in the 4-3.
It wouldn't be a stretch to suggest he will play frequently in the nickel, either. The Broncos watched Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson torch them in Week 2 of the preseason, and Bradley was a big reason why.
The Broncos don't want to see that happen in the regular season. To try to avoid that, they will give Lenon a chance.
After all, Lenon bested Bradley in Arizona's middle linebacker competition, starting 32 games over Bradley in 2011 and 2012. He's not going to best Miller or Woodyard and take over at outside linebacker, but he could start in between the two.
He won't just be limited to playing in the middle, though.
Lenon isn't a prototypical pass-rusher, but he can get after the quarterback. In other words, he would be a good fit as a 4-3 outside linebacker. When Miller returns, Lenon could play opposite Miller with Woodyard anchoring the middle. Miller usually rushes, so Lenon will get an opportunity to defend tight ends in both packages.
Bradley, Irving, Trevathan, McCray and Johnson will also play, and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will have to mix and match to get those five into the game. Del Rio will have to mix and match, as the Broncos have depth but lack quality all-around players.
Mixing and matching will be the theme of the first six games and the entire season, as the Broncos don't have any definite starters besides Miller and Woodyard. Most of the team's linebackers have specific skill sets, as there aren't many complete players.
Lenon isn't a star, but he is a decent all-around player on a team with a paucity of players like him. He isn't the same player who accumulated 125 tackles in 2010, but he is an experienced, versatile veteran who can help the Broncos avenge Miller's suspension.
He will have to prove himself, but he does have a leg up on his competition. He has done well in his career, and he can make an immediate impact. In Week 3 of the preseason, he came through with two tackles and a tackle for loss in limited playing time.
Irving had a nice game as well, coming through with three tackles, but he saw the field more. Trevathan, on the other hand, was picked on by Rams quarterback Sam Bradford in Week 3 of the preseason. He surrendered a touchdown and more completions.
If Trevathan fails to show off his skills in pass coverage, he could be relegated to a bench role. He isn't an ideal full-time starter, and Lenon is a much better all-around player.
And if Lenon portrays his skills against the Cardinals on Thursday, he could seize the starting middle linebacker job.
The linebacking corps need improvement, and Lenon can help out. Trevathan and Irving are solid players who can do certain things well, but neither is as complete as Lenon. Lenon can help lead the team through Miller's suspension on and off the field, and he could come through as a low-risk, high-reward signing.
He will have to work his way up the ladder, and he might end up showing his age and failing to ascend the depth chart. However, he could also easily overtake Trevathan and see significant playing time.
And if everything goes well, he could come up big after Miller's suspension as well.