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Keys to ILB Todd Davis' next step forward

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. –When Danny Trevathan left the Broncos in free agency following the 2015 season, undrafted free agent Todd Davis stepped in at inside linebacker.

The Sacramento State product started 15 games in 2016 and ended up as the team's leading tackler.

The starting job is no guarantee in 2017, as Head Coach Vance Joseph has preached competition at every spot. Corey Nelson, who started six games in 2016, could provide the biggest push at the position.

Here, then, are three ways for Davis to keep his starting job and take another step forward in 2017:

  1. Remain a sure-footed tackler*

In 2016, Davis didn't miss a single tackle against the run, per Pro Football Focus. The analytics-based website found that Davis missed just two total tackles all season, which ranked him second among all inside linebackers. 

As he heads into what could be his second season as a starter, Davis needs to remain a consistent tackler alongside Brandon Marshall. After the Broncos added players like Domata Peko and Zach Kerr to clog up the middle, Davis could find cleaner lanes to the ball carrier. That could help Davis improve upon his 97 tackles and two tackles for loss from 2016.

"I don't really know [the key]," Davis said. "I didn't even know that, that was true until it came out. It was a good stat. I hope I can do it again this year."

2. *Improve against the pass*

For all his success in the run game, Davis knows he needs to improve his coverage. If he wants to take the next step and become a top-level linebacker in the NFL, he'll need to stay on the field on passing downs. As such, Davis has turned his focus during OTAs toward improving his coverage skills.

"I would love to stay on the field on [those] key third downs and the dime packages," Davis said. "I'm definitely working on my coverage and just trying to have a reason for me not to be off the field."

3.Keep the chemistry**

In his first season alongside Marshall, Davis often showed flashes that he could be a longtime and top-tier NFL starter. That, in part, stemmed from the help he received from Marshall, the linebacker out of Nevada who enters his third season as a starter. 

The communication between the pair will need to continue to develop, but Davis said the two found a good working relationship during 2016. With any luck, the two will be on the field together more than they were in 2016, when Marshall missed five games due to injury.

"I think it's been great," Davis said. "I think we have a lot in common. You know, he's from Vegas, I'm from California. Those two states [Nevada and California] are so close together, we're able to bond and talk about stuff. Growing up we had a lot of similarities in childhood memories and things we used to listen to, and I think that really brought us together."

"Just playing together, I think we have chemistry like nobody else. We read off each other really well and ... last year has given us even more time to grow with each other."

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