Denver Broncos: Why They Are Equipped to Replace Danny Trevathan

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Denver Broncos: Why They Are Equipped to Replace Danny Trevathan
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Last year, Denver Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan was irreplaceable.

During the playoffs, with star pass-rusher Von Miller out, middle linebacker Wesley Woodyard struggling and aging veteran Paris Lenon being forced into action, Trevathan shined.

According to Pro Football Focus, he posted a cumulative playoff grade of plus-5.6 , and he combined for three interceptions, two sacks and 56 tackles in the games in which Von Miller missed all or most of.

But now, the Broncos will have to survive without one of their main defensive leaders.

According to The Denver Post, Trevathan will be sidelined six to eight weeks with a left knee injury. Six weeks from Aug. 12, the date of Trevathan's injury, will be Sept. 23.

That's after the team's third regular-season game, heading into the bye week. In other words, Trevathan won't miss much time.

But even if his injury were more severe, the Broncos would be equipped to handle the situation. They have a surplus of quality, young linebackers, such as Brandon Marshall, Corey Nelson and Lamin Barrow, all of whom can chip in to compensate for the loss of Trevathan

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Marshall appears to be the cream of the crop. According to The Denver Post, Marshall will start at weak-side linebacker.

He gave up one catch for two yards on two targets in Week 1 of the preseason and had been and making his presence felt even before Trevathan's injury. In fact, as The Denver Post noted, Marshall was seeing work in sub-packages with the first team before Trevathan's injury. Sayre Bedinger of PredominantlyOrange.com also praised Marshall early in camp.

The linebacker was actually picked ahead of Trevathan in the 2012 NFL draft, as he benched 225 pounds 28 times and ran a respectable 4.63 40-yard dash (according to NFL Draft Scout). He has the combination of speed and strength required to succeed in the NFL, and he has displayed these assets during the preseason.

However, Marshall isn't the only competent replacement. Rookie Lamin Barrow surrendered a passer rating of 70.1 in his first preseason game, and he did well against the run. At LSU, Barrow accumulated 91 tackles in 2013 and 103 in 2012, and he has the ability to be the same kind of productive player in the NFL. 

According to Andrew Mason of the team's official website, Barrow has received positive remarks from defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio.

Barrow is known as a coverage linebacker, so he would fit perfectly in the nickel package. He has the quickness to stay with speedy running backs like Jamaal Charles in coverage, and he could be a perfect complement to T.J. Ward, himself a very physical player.

Ward, one of Denver's prized free-agent acquisitions, is a strong safety, but he can also play the box like a linebacker. With Trevathan out, expect Ward to spend a lot of time in the box while also covering tight ends in pass defense.

The Broncos will likely need one more coverage linebacker on most plays, to account for all running backs and tight ends running patterns. But they have a host of players to which they can turn. That includes Marshall, Barrow, starting middle linebacker Nate Irving, special teams ace Steven Johnson and seventh-round linebacker Nelson.

Who should start at weakside linebacker in Week 1?

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So Denver has plenty of quality options. At the moment, it seems like it's guaranteed that at least one player will answer the bell.

Trevathan's absence will be felt, but the Broncos can minimize the impact by deploying Ward more as a safety-linebacker hybrid and using their solid depth. Trevathan and Woodyard both broke out under defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio's tutelage, and another linebacker can do the same this year.

But even if no linebacker rises to the occasion like Trevathan did last year, the Broncos should be able to make do.

 

All advanced stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

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