Thursday, July 10, 2008

Linebackers & Special Teams

Since the demise of Al Wilson, this position has been in need of help. At the conclusion of '07, the only definite was DJ Williams, but exactly where he should be in the LB Corps was under debate (not to be confused with salmon eggs & nightcrawlers). At MLB, DJ had 170 TT in '07, almost double that of SLB, Nate Webster, with 100. Nate was surrounded by players with high tackle numbers: Champ Bailey (81); John Lynch (62); John Engelberger (59) and Nick Ferguson (56). Is it possible they (especially the DBs) were picking up a few he should have? I always thought it was a bad sign when the DBs were making a large number of tackles.

DJ is now at WLB where many feel he will dominate. Boss Bailey was brought in at SLB not only replacing Webster, but bumping him to MLB due to the excellence of Jamie Winborn. The void at MLB has Niko Koutouvides (FA/Seattle), Spencer Larsen (6th round/Arizona) and Nate Webster as candidates. In the recent mini camps, Webster worked with 1st team D, but none of it was w/hats & pads. Many expect Webster to compete with Koutouvides to be the starter. Some have predicted that Webster making the team will be trouble for Jordan Beck.

This reminds me of those predicting Travis Henry (who?) would start at RB in the season opener. I'm over 300 miles from Englewood (GO PIRATES! I student taught there) and have no access to practices. I'm not Jim Ryan, in whom I have great confidence. It's presumptuous to boldly predict who will and won't make the team. Having said all that, you expect something, don't you? Of course!

My take is that if Larsen plays ST well and looks promising in the middle, he makes the team. Ditto for DJ, Boss, Koutouvides and Winborn. Also listed as a LB is Wesley Woodyard (CFA Kentucky). Wearing #59 it seems that he is , for the moment, a LB. He could be a candidate for SS/Monster/Rover to follow in the cleat marks of John Lynch. Let's wait until we see if his number changes or if he is listed as a S. He's a strong, young defensive player who has a chance to impress on ST just as Larsen does.

Special Teams! Yeah, how did that go in '07? Not well from my perspective. I see a slew of young, fresh legs headed toward TC who have the chance to impress with ST play. Speaking of ST, who was leading ST tackler in '07? Jamie Winborn. Who was #2? Jordan Beck by only one stick. Are we counting on our fingers yet? That's right. Including Wesley Woodyard and Louis Green, whom we haven't mentioned (3rd in ST tackles, one behind Beck) the Broncos have nine LBs going into camp. Beck, who went to a pretty tough school academically (Cal Poly San Luis Obispo), is 25 years old and has a pretty impressive set of wheels for a LB. His ST play in '07 is still in the mind's eye for me. Wasn't he a 3rd round pick of the Falcons in '05?

I can't see into the future as Homer's immortal gods, but methinks a pattern is developing. The Broncos are on a serious youth movement. ST needs some headhunters, too. Young guys are good at ST. If Nate Webster doesn't start at MLB and if Larsen (MLB) makes the team ... I don't know if Nate will survive the last cut. From backup LB to starting MLB to starting SLB to fighting for MLB doesn't sound very settled (kinda like his helmet). How many LBs will Denver keep? My guess is six (two each of WLB, MLB and SLB) and the backups better be ST aces. Green at 28 years old seems to have a better chance of making the roster than Webster (30) although he seems pressed, too.

Let us not forget that Spencer Larsen was in the process of learning FB as well as MLB which must mean he knows how to block (as well as having brains). How many ST do you think he'll be on? All of them. It's a gut feeling on my part, but I think Woodyard will move to SS. Let's observe his ST performance closely during preseason.

Nate Webster is nothing if not an all-out totally enthusiastic football player. However, if he doesn't beat out Koutouvides, he'd better beg for the chance to shine on ST. Niko was ST captain in Seattle so you'd expect him to be on at least one. That reminds me of something I haven't seen much of lately, and that is talk of the truly fierce competition for position combined with ST implications. Morituri te salutamus. Let the games begin.

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