HEADLINES

Time to get Vic Fangio his favorite defensive toy, an ILB

Mar 25, 2021, 7:25 AM | Updated: 7:33 am
Orchard Park, NY - November 24: Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio making a point to Denver Bronc...
(Photo by Joe Amon/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Amon/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

The Denver Broncos have made some big moves so far this offseason, specifically on the defensive side of the ball.

In the Denver secondary, general manager George Paton first franchise tagged then signed Justin Simmons to a long-term deal that made him the highest paid safety in the NFL. He retained Simmons’ partner in the defensive backfield, Kareem Jackson, on a one-year deal while adding depth at the cornerback position in Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller.

In the defensive trenches, Paton inked Shelby Harris to a multi-year deal while bringing back edge rusher Von Miller.

When you look at this Denver defense, there doesn’t seem to be a real need anywhere except for the one position head coach Vic Fangio could really use: middle linebacker.

During his time with Carolina, San Francisco and Chicago, Fangio has found success with utilizing middle linebackers. The defensive guru coached All-Pro linebackers Sam Mills, Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman.

And yet, since Fangio was hired, Denver has yet to provide an elite middle linebacker. The Broncos head coach has had to build a defense around Todd Davis, Alexander Johnson and Josey Jewell — all three linebackers who don’t have sideline-to-sideline speed and struggle to cover tight ends and running backs.

Denver has not had great covering inside linebacker play since the Super Bowl 50 squad that featured Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan (who shined under Fangio in Chicago as well).

Sure, Jewell made a significant jump this past season, but he’s still not the type of linebacker you need to win in today’s NFL — like recent Super Bowl champions Lavonte David and Devin White.

The same goes for Johnson, who may have led the Broncos in tackles last season, but that’s what your inside linebacker is supposed to do. Again, he’s not the type of player you can win with in today’s NFL.

Denver might not be able to find an elite-level linebacker in free agency, but they may be able to in the first round of the NFL Draft with prospect Micah Parsons.

The Broncos have had opportunities to draft top inside linebacker talent in recent drafts — Devin Bush in 2019 or Patrick Queen/Kenneth Murray in 2020 — but have failed to address the position.

It’s time to give Fangio his most valuable toy for his defense. If the Broncos want to have an elite defense, it’s time to get a playmaking inside linebacker.

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