The ebb and flow of the NFL turns the tide against certain types of players. The game not only evolves but also changes back and forth when it comes to what is viewed as valuable and necessary to having an elite unit.
Right now Joe Mays is in good position to at least contribute at middle linebacker for the Denver Broncos but this type of run-thumping, two-down linebacker leaves much to be desired in an LB group that is very thin outside of edge rusher Von Miller. Mays ranked respectable 17th against the run among inside linebackers by Pro Football Focus grading, but his pass coverage mark landed him at 45th among 53 qualifying ILBs.
Fortunately for Denver, while Miller is almost never asked to go into coverage, outside linebacker Wesley Woodyard finished first in PFF’s pass coverage grades among OLBs last season. Then there’s Chris Harris, arguably the best slot cornerback in the league. While Mays probably would not have had a great run out on this year’s free-agent market, he fits a needed run-stopping role for the Broncos and has his weaknesses protected quite well when on the field.
However, the signing of Stewart Bradley and maturation of Nate Irving make the Broncos’ middle linebacker role up for grabs in training camp. It’ll be a battle royale for the starting spot, as indicated by the team website. “Last year’s season-opening starter at middle linebacker is completing his recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in Week 8 against New Orleans. But upon (Mays’) return, he’ll find a crowded middle linebacker field.”