The Denver Broncos all ready struggling defense is probably going to take a big hit heading into Sunday’s game versus the Oakland Raiders. Starting middle linebacker, Joe Mays is likely to be suspended for his hit on Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub. The hit resulted in Schaub losing a piece of his ear and caused him to miss one play following the hit. The suspension will be for a blow to the head. The hit was hard and violent but there is some debate on whether Mays actually went to Schaub’s head. That debate will rage on in some quarters but the greater concern for the Broncos is replacing Mays for a must win on Sunday.
Mays is the quarterback of the defense, he makes all the calls and makes sure everyone is where they are supposed to be. The other and maybe bigger problem is that losing Mays depletes an all ready thin linebacker position. The current Broncos depth chart lists rookie, Steven Johnson as the backup to Mays. The undrafted free agent was a pleasant surprise in training camp, but making plays in August is a long way from lining up as a starter in a regular season game that the Broncos have to have. Johnson has not played in the regular season and starting on Sunday maybe too much to ask.
The Broncos do have a couple of other options including Nate Irving and Keith Brooking. Irving was drafted as the future middle linebacker but has since been moved to the outside, where he appears to be more comfortable. There are two problems with Irving with the first one being that he was moved to the outside because he was so bad on the inside. The other problem is that Irving suffered a head injury last Sunday and his status for the game with the Raiders is unknown.
Brooking has been a very good to great middle linebacker in the NFL, but he is now 37 and has been playing on the outside through the first three games of this season. Having said that, if it was me then I would go with Brooking. Irving and Johnson are younger and faster, but the middle linebacker requires a player who is smart and experienced. What Brooking lacks in physical abilities, he makes up for with his experience. If Mays was out for an extended period of time then the younger players would make more sense, but for one game the answer has to be Brooking.
The Denver Broncos are 1-2 and cannot afford a home loss to a division foe, and the loss of Mays will make beating the Raiders tougher. Every team experiences obstacles through a season that they must find a way to overcome; on Sunday the Broncos must survive one game without their middle linebacker.
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