|04-26-2007, 03:19 AM||#1|
Join Date: Apr 2006
Safeties could use backup
Safeties could use backup
By FRANK SCHWAB THE GAZETTE
Last year, there was plenty of speculation the Denver Broncos might draft a safety.
“Last year?” Broncos safety John Lynch said with a laugh. “The last five years.”
The Broncos didn’t pick a safety, and starters Lynch and Nick Ferguson are a year older. Furthermore, Ferguson had minor knee surgery that ended his 2006 season prematurely, and top backup Sam Brandon blew out his knee last November.
Lynch believes the Broncos were strong at safety. However, he will be 36 in September and Ferguson will turn 33 two months later, so Denver might start thinking about the future.
“They might address it,” Lynch said.
Like last year, however, the Broncos might fill more pressing needs. They could add some defensive linemen, and linebacker became a bit thin after the release of longtime middle linebacker Al Wilson.
Denver could replace Wilson in the lineup with Nate Webster, and perhaps move D.J. Williams to the middle. But suddenly, there is little depth.
“Guys like (Wilson) are tough to replace,” Lynch said, “but I think you have to have confidence in your organization that if they’re making decisions that they are doing it knowing that they have some idea how they’re going to replace him.”
The Broncos might have to move up in the draft for a chance at one of the elite linebackers such as Mississippi’s Patrick Willis or Penn State’s Paul Posluszny, but they could have a shot at someone like Michigan’s David Harris with the 21st pick.
The Broncos must also decide whether to invest a draft pick in a safety, and in which round to take the plunge. Even though Lynch and Ferguson are getting older, assistant head coach/defense Jim Bates said he wasn’t concerned.
“I feel good about the safeties,” Bates said. “In the draft, if we can upgrade at any area, we will address that. No matter if it’s a corner, safety, whatever position, we’ll address that, but right now we feel comfortable.”
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TOP LINEBACKERS/DEFENSIVE BACKS
Patrick Willis, 6-1, 240, Mississippi
Willis was lightly recruited out of a small high school in Tennessee, but he was one of the best players in college football. He won the Butkus Award given to the top linebacker in the country after leading the SEC with 11.4 tackles per game.
Paul Posluszny, 6-1, 237, Penn State
Twice Posluszny won the Bednarik Award, which is given to the best defensive player in the nation. He suffered a knee injury at the end of his junior season but returned to have 116 tackles last year — the same amount he had as a junior.
David Harris, 6-2, 239, Michigan
Three years into his college career, Harris had only one start. But in his final two years (he redshirted as a freshman) he had 184 tackles and was one of the best middle linebackers in the Big Ten.
Lawrence Timmons, 6-3, 232, Florida State
A hard-hitting outside linebacker, Timmons was 11th in the nation with 18 tackles for loss. He also led the Seminoles in sacks and passes broken up last season.
Jon Beason, 6-0, 236, Miami (Fla.)
Beason spent some time at fullback for the Hurricanes, like current Bronco D.J. Williams, before moving to linebacker full time. He led Miami with 66 tackles last season.
Justin Durant, 6-1, 235, Hampton
Durant, who played for the Division I-AA Pirates, measured up well at the combine. He had a good workout and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.51 seconds, which was tied for third-best among linebackers. He led Hampton with 98 tackles last year.
The crop of linebackers is a little thin this year, although it was strengthened a bit when Timmons and Beason skipped their senior years to enter the draft.
After releasing middle linebacker Al Wilson, the Broncos might select a linebacker. Nate Webster could move into the starting lineup and D.J. Williams might move to the middle, but the Broncos need some depth.
LaRon Landry (S), 6-2, 205, Louisiana State
Landry passed up a chance to be a first-round pick last year to play his senior year at LSU. He led the Tigers with 74 tackles and was a first-team Associated Press All-America selection.
Leon Hall (CB), 5-11, 193, Michigan
Hall’s college career ended with a poor performance against USC in the Rose Bowl. But he set a Michigan career record for passes broken up and is tied for fourth on the school’s all-time interceptions list.
Darrelle Revis (CB), 6-0, 197, Pittsburgh
Revis skipped his senior season after a good junior year. He was named first-team All-Big East for the second straight year and scored three touchdowns — two on interception returns and another on a punt return.
Chris Houston (CB), 5-11, 185, Arkansas
Houston posted the top 40-yard dash time among defensive backs at the combine, 4.32 seconds. Houston left school a year early for the draft after being named first-team All-SEC last season.
Reggie Nelson (S), 6-0, 193, Florida
Nelson had 51 tackles and six interceptions for the national champion Gators. He is not big for a safety but is fast and can make plays.
Aaron Ross (CB), 6-1, 192, Texas
Ross won the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation’s top defensive back. He has good speed and might be a first-round pick.
There are some good cornerbacks and safeties, many of which could be first-round selections. Landry should be the first defensive back selected, but there are plenty of other talented prospects.
The Broncos are well stocked at cornerback with Champ Bailey, Dre Bly and Domonique Foxworth as their top three. Denver might look for a safety, not necessarily to start this season, but to be a successor to John Lynch or Nick Ferguson.
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Denver owns the 21st pick in the first round. The team’s primary needs appear to be at defensive line, safety and linebacker.