ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --** The right knee injury that Nate Irving suffered late in the 43-21 loss at New England on Nov. 2 will end his season.
Thursday, the Broncos placed Irving on injured reserve, ending his season. The Broncos did not have the single recallable injured-reserve designation available to them, having used it on Danny Trevathan after his Week 6 leg injury.
It is a crushing blow to Irving, who played the best football of his four-year career this season after being installed as the starting middle linebacker. In the three games leading up to his injury, Irving saw more work in nickel sub packages next to Brandon Marshall because of his improved coverage ability and his strong tackling.
With Irving out, Steven Johnson is expected to continue his work at middle linebacker. The Broncos may also continue to use T.J. Ward as a linebacker in the box in the nickel package, with Quinton Carter lining up at safety in what is a nickel defense with dime personnel.
"That's probably going to be one of our main defenses," Demaryius Thomas said Monday. "Teams are going to have a problem with me and T.J. inside and having 'Q' back there at safety."
The Broncos immediately filled Irving's spot by claiming rookie linebacker Todd Davis off waivers from the New Orleans Saints. Davis was undrafted when he came out of Sacramento State, and is an aggressive, versatile 230-pound linebacker who can be effective on special teams. He played five defensive snaps for the Saints so far this year.
Davis plays bigger than his size, which shows in the way he attacks the run. Fans of the Colorado Buffaloes might remember him for the seven-tackle game he notched in Boulder in 2012. Davis punctuated his effort with a third-down stuff of Christia Powell for a 3-yard loss in the final minutes. That forced a punt and set up the Hornets for their late drive to a game-winning field goal as time expired.