The Chicago Bears are currently the favorites, over the Atlanta Falcons, to sign Broncos free agent inside linebacker Danny Trevathan.
It would be a solid fit for the Bears, signing a championship player at the team's biggest position of need. But what, exactly, does Trevathan bring to the table?
I broke down extensive All-22 game film of Trevathan from last year's playoffs. Here's what I found.
Our first snap will look at Trevathan in coverage against Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski. Travathan is lined up weak side in zone coverage. Gronkowski will run a drag route into Trevathan's zone.
Here's Gronkowski just as he makes the 4-yard catch. Notice Trevathan closing forward immediately.
Trevathan lowers his shoulder and drives directly into Gronkowski's midsection. Notice the hit is delivered at the 24-yard line.
Trevathan sends Gronkowski backward three yards before dumping him at the 21-yard line. No YAC.
Analysis: Gronk is an absolute beast after the catch. At 6-6, 265 pounds and with immense strength, he's one of the hardest players in the league to tackle. On this snap, Trevathan does a good job of staying behind Gronk yet within range to make the quick tackle. After making the catch, Gronkowski doesn't have time to turn up the field, as he's hit almost immediately. Most impressive is Trevathan's leg drive after contact, which sends Gronkowski three yards backward. That's not a common occurence for Gronk.
Here again Trevathan will match up with Gronkoswki, this time in man coverage. The Pats tight end will run up the right seam, with Trevathan trailing from inside the hash marks.
Here we see Trevathan tracking the tight end, keeping his eye on Gronkowski and closing the gap, while not overpursuing and extending himself over the top.
Gronk breaks down and turn back to the quarterback. Notice Trevathan plant his outside foot, mirroring the hitch route. This doesn't allow Gronkowski the separation he needs to be a viable target for Tom Brady.
With no receivers open, Brady steps up into the pocket and looks at Gronkowski, yet Trevathan is right in the tight end's hip, tracking him within a yard as Gronk breaks across the field. Brady ends up taking a sack.
Analysis: Trevathan does everything right in man coverage on this play. He takes a perfect angle to cut off Gronk, yet he keeps good body control and pace, never extending too far over the top. When Gronkowski breaks down, so does Trevathan. Then, after Brady scrambles, Trevathan stays on top of Gronk as he tries to separate. This might look simple but staying tight on a hitch route from the backside and then shadowing on the break inside is extremely difficult, especially against the top tight end in the NFL. Trevathan's coverage on this play results in the sack of Brady.
Here again Trevathan will be charged with covering Gronkowski 1-on-1, this time on a drage route to the right side.
As the tight end crosses his face, Trevathan closes the gap and drops underneath, riding Gronkowski's hip across the field.
Here is where Brady releases the pass. There are two things worth mentioning here. The first is Trevathan's positioning on Gronkowski, where he is right on the tight end's heels. There is not separation here. Second is Trevathan's head and eyes, which are turned back to the quarterback. As Gronkowski raises his hand to call for the pass, Trevathan uses that as a signal to look into the backfield and find the football.
Trevathan cuts underneath and knocks the pass away.
Analysis: This is the complete picture of Trevathan's prowess in coverage. He reacts quickly to Gronkowski's crossing route, stays stride for stride, has the awareness to find the ball, and the agility and athleticism to knock the pass away. This isn't Kellen Davis we're talking about here, this is Rob Gronkowski, and Trevathan made it look easy.
On this play, the Pats will run the ball backside across the formation, into the left B gap. Trevathan is lined up A gap right, an inch off DE Malik Jackson's left heel.
At the mesh point, the Pats left guard closes the gap between him and Trevathan, whose eyes are locked on the backfield.
At this point, the left guard locks up Trevathan. Yet notice the linebacker's body positioning. Trevathan is leaning toward the path of the running back, while using his hands to control the blocker.
Here's the shed. Trevathan quickly extends his arms and charges playside, leaving the blocker in his wake.
Trevathan makes the tackle after a 1-yard gain. Notice New England's left guard is nowhere near the play.
Analysis: Here we see Trevathan's ability to shed blocks. He tracks the play, realizes the ball carrier is headed to his left and positions himself to take on the block. Once the blocker makes contact, Trevathan shifts his body weight and then uses his strength to extend his arms and create separation. Finally, he disengages, tracks down the running back and makes the tackle. This is the complete package in terms of run defense for an inside linebacker.
This will be a counter play run away from Trevathan.
As the handoff is made, New England's center tries to cut off Trevathan and seal him on the back side.
Trevathan uses the blocker's momentum against him. He steps back and uses his hands to guide the lineman across his face, which creates a lane for him to pursue the ball carrier.
Trevathan closes on the running back and tackles him for no gain. Notice the Pats center, who has been tossed away and is five yards away from the play.
Analysis: This play is a great demonstration of Trevathan's elite awareness. He keeps his eyes in the backfield but is able to feel the block coming. As soon as the blocker makes contact, Trevathan shifts his weight backward and uses his upper body to chuck the lineman away from the play. This gives Trevathan an easy path to the ball carrier.
This is a straight dive play up the A gap. Notice Trevathan is lined up at the 48-yard line.
For some reason, the Pats decide not to block Trevathan, who charges the line of scrimmage as soon as the handoff is made. Notice he's now on the 45-yard line.
Trevathan bursts into the backfield and takes the ball carrier down for a 1-yard loss.
Analysis: The biggest problem for the Bears inside linebackers the past few years has been a lack of aggression at the point of attack. I cannot count how many times I've seen Shea McClellin and Christian Jones wait back on a play like this just to make the tackle after a 5-yard gain. Trevathan is a different breed, an attacking linebacker who isn't satisfied with 5-yard gains. We see it on this play, where he shoots downhill after the handoff and closes on the ball carrier in the backfield. This type of aggression in his run fits is what makes Trevathan special.
On this snap, the Pats will run right at Trevathan, who is lined up on the line of scrimmage in the left C gap.
Trevathan's first duty is to disrupt Gronkowski. His chuck here throws off the timing of a Gronk release to the second level, whether on a pass route or to snag a linebacker. This is a common technique for defensive ends, yet because Trevathan is lined up on the line of scrimmage, he assumes the duty of making life hard for the Pats tight end. Notice Trevathan's eyes, again looking toward the backfield and the blocker heading his way.
Here is the point of contact for Trevathan and New England's right tackle. Based on this frame, you'd assume that Trevathan will be driven out of the play. Yet notice Trevathan's hips, which he sinks low to absorb the contact and maintain his balance.
Trevathan holds his ground and uses the blocker's momentum against him, effectively shifting him to his outside shoulder.
Trevathan dumps the blocker onto his backside, then breaks down to react to the running back.
Trevathan makes the tackle after a short gain. Notice the Pats left tackle watching from his back.
Analysis: This play is truly something else. Trevathan first disrupts the tight end, while keeping his eyes playside. He then sinks his hips to stack against the offensive lineman before shifting his body underneath the block. He's able to dump the blocker to the ground before finding the ball carrier and making the tackle. This is about as difficult a run stop as there is for an NFL inside linebacker, and Trevathan makes it look easy. His ability to stack and shed blocks is top-tier.
On this snap in the Super Bowl, the Panthers will run a counter play out of shotgun formation, to Trevathan's side of the field.
As the handoff is made, Trevathan holds his ground. He's reading the play and waiting before he reacts. Notice the backside tackle, who will pull across the formation and try to kick out Trevathan.
Here is where Trevathan's awareness is at its peak. He realizes the pull block is coming, yet he knows he has a road block in front of him. Trevathan puts the up-front block between him and the pulling tackle, which forces the offensive lineman to cut behind his teammate. All the while, RB Jonathan Stewart is breaking toward the right hash mark, which Trevathan clearly recognizes.
Trevathan breaks outside, leaving the pulling tackle in his wake, and takes down Stewart after a 1-yard gain.
Analysis: Here again we have a clear example of Trevathan's awareness and intelligence. The defensive tackle in front of him locks up the right guard, which Trevathan uses as a barrier to sheild himself from the pull block. This creates a free lane for him to track down the ball carrier trying to turn the corner.
Here the Steelers will run A gap left, in the direction of Trevathan, who is only a few yards off the line of scrimmage.
Pittsburgh's left tackle clears to the second level and heads toward Trevathan, whose eyes are locked in the backfield.
Trevathan sees the handoff and shoots the gap, which doesn't allow the offensive tackle to execute the block. Instead, he's only able to get a piece of Trevathan, who keeps his balance as he explodes into the gap.
Trevathan leaves the blocker in his wake and takes the running back down in the backfield.
Analysis: Here again we get a glimpse of Trevathan's aggressiveness against plays run right at him. He doesn't wait for the blocker to lock him up. Instead, he shoots the gap and avoids the block, which allows him to make the tackle for a loss.