In the wake of the Broncos' decision to part ways with inside linebacker Brandon Marshall, one mock draft after another had the Broncos poised to target that position with the No. 10 overall pick prior to the 2019 NFL Draft.
Then the Broncos traded down ... and when they did take a potential inside linebacker, they picked Justin Hollins, who also projects as an outside linebacker after flourishing in that role at Oregon.
Todd Davis and Josey Jewell, you're up.
Davis is the proven commodity of the duo, a starter since 2016 who has developed into one of the league's best players at diagnosing runs as they develop and preventing opposing backs from reaching the second level.
The Broncos know what they're getting with Davis. They're still learning with Jewell, a fourth-round pick last year who started nine games, posted 58 tackles but played in a scheme not well-suited to his skill set.
The arrivals of Vic Fangio as head coach and Ed Donatell as defensive coordinator changed that. Jewell now works in a scheme similar to the one he ran at Iowa.
"It's pretty awesome. It kind of takes me back to Iowa and the defenses [run there]," Jewell said during OTAs.
"[Fangio's] disguises and the stuff about his defense, it's really good, and you're really using your brain on this one. You're really trying to disguise stuff."
Davis has seen the difference.
“He’s just making plays," Davis said of Jewell during OTAs. "I feel like he has a better command of the NFL offensive schemes and how teams are going to try and attack us as linebackers and our overall defense. I feel like he’s playing really well."
Jewell calls Davis "one of the best communicators I've ever been around." Between Davis' presence and the change in scheme and emphasis, the Broncos expect their defensive-communication problems of 2018 to vanish this year.
"Our communication is growing," Davis said. "We hang out. When we’re off, we talk and text nonstop trying to get the playbook down and make sure we’re both on our Ps and Qs. Our communication is really good."
Good practices ... good communication. These things now need to happen in training camp and the games. Succeed, and the heart of the defense belongs to them. Fall short, and Fangio might not be able to execute what he wants to with his scheme.
OTHER CAMP BURNING QUESTIONS:
- Who provides cornerback depth?
- Will the Broncos keep three or four tight ends?
- Can DeMarcus Walker make a leap in his third year?
- Who will be the top backups on the offensive line?
- What can we expect from Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton?
- Who will back up Joe Flacco?
- Who will handle returns?
- What will be the right workload for the running backs?