Would it be an exercise in hyperbole if I were to say that the Denver Broncos are getting arguably their most important defensive player back this week, in Danny Trevathan? I'll let the substance of this article answer that question.
Per Troy Renck of the Denver Post, the team's starting weakside linebacker is expected to start this Sunday vs the Arizona Cardinals. Trevathan has missed the Broncos first 3 games, due to a fractured tibia he suffered in practice during the preseason. His original prognosis to return was 4-8 weeks, but Trevathan swore he'd shrink it to 4-6. And he did. He's returning to the team about 6 weeks from the date of the injury.
In Trevathan's absence, the Broncos plugged Brandon Marshall, a former 3rd round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars, into the starting lineup at weakside linebacker. Although he doesn't have the experience of Trevathan, nor the leadership mantle inside the huddle, Marshall has performed admirably in his place. In 3 games, Marshall has notched 30 total tackles, 3 tackles for a loss, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble and 2 passes defensed.
This performance has earned him the praise of his coaches and teammates. Marshall stepped up to the plate and exceeded the team's expectations. It's no easy thing to replace a player of Trevathan's prowess. Since coming to the Broncos via the 2012 draft, Trevathan has gone from a late round pick, to an essential cog in the team's defensive scheme.
As the team's "WILL" linebacker, he stays on the field for all 3 downs. His abilities in coverage make him one of the best cover linebackers in the NFL. In week 5 last year, he sealed a Broncos victory when he picked off a Tony Romo pass late in the 4th quarter. As a run defender, he has some serious chops too.
In his first full season as a starter (2013), Trevathan notched 129 total tackles, 2 sacks, 7 TFL, 4 forced fumbles, 3 INT and 10 passes defensed. This earned him a +7.2 overall grade via ProFootballFocus.com and a leadership role with the team.
Now in his 3rd year, Trevathan is the leader inside the Broncos defensive huddle. His presence on the field allows defensive coordinator, Jack Del Rio, to deploy his schemes the way he intended and with full confidence. Trevathan sets the tone for the defense, and keeps his teammates accountable on the field. As the man with the green dot on his helmet, it is his responsibility to call the plays on the field and make sure each guy is lined up correctly.
In essence, Danny Trevathan is the Broncos quarterback of the defense, and just like his offensive counterpart, he is arguably the most important player on his side of the ball. Trevathan's impact will be felt on the field immediately.
The Broncos defense has struggled, at times, on 3rd down. They've also struggled in covering the middle of the field, in passing situations. Trevathan can be matched up on a tight end, or a running back out of the backfield, and effectively cover them. He is one of the NFL's top "Will" linebackers in a 4-3 scheme, and the only player I could see argued as better than he, would be Lavonte David.
The Broncos are currently the 27th ranked defense in the league. As a unit, they haven't exactly lived up to their billing. Yet. Starting this Sunday vs the Cardinals, perhaps we'll finally get to see the Orange Crush 2.0 as head coach John Fox and Del Rio have intended.
Here is the latest episode of Quick Hits, with Brandon Perna. As only he can, Perna analyzes how Trevathan's return impacts the Broncos.