The Denver Broncos continue to be hampered by injuries this season, but no one seems to notice thanks to the incredible play by the team’s back-ups. Starting center Dan Koppen tears his ACL, Manny Ramierez steps up and plays brilliantly. All-pro tackle Ryan Clady goes down, Chris Clark steps up and shuts down DeMarcus Ware in his first week. Champ Bailey strains his foot, the secondary responds with seven picks in five games. Not only have the Broncos proven that they are the most talented team in the NFL, but they are quickly demonstrating they may also be the deepest.
This week, Wesley Woodyard, the Broncos starting middle linebacker, defensive captain and defensive play caller is doubtful against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Though his presence will be greatly missed on the field, the team will replace him with a savvy 12-year veteran in Paris Lenon.
Playing for nine different teams throughout his career (and even one XFL team in 2001), Lenon is the definition of an NFL journeyman. Consequently, he is therefore largely unknown, hoowever, this is not to say he doesn’t have legitimate NFL ability. In fact, it is rather the opposite.
In 2012, while playing for the Arizona Cardinals, Lenon topped the 100-tackle mark for the third consecutive season and for the fifth time in his career. While he is not as versatile as Woodyard, especially in regards to pass coverage, he does bring a physical presence (6-2, 240) and sure tackling into the box – a key aspect when facing a player like Maurice Jones-Drew.
However, Woodyard brought much more that just physical ability to the Broncos’ defense. His presence as a captain and his intelligence at reading defenses is what makes him such a valuable player. Though Woodyard is out, Lenon is a very experienced NFL linebacker, and, more importantly, all-pro corner Champ Bailey will be back on the field. Bailey will instantly relieve pressure off of Lenon, both in pass coverage as well as when calling audibles, allowing the veteran linebacker to play aggressive and instinctive football.
At 35 years old, Lenon is certainly not a permanent replacement for Woodyard, but his experience and durability make him a perfect backup. The “next man up” philosophy is one the Broncos take very seriously, and there is no reason to expect that Lenon will not exceed expectations in the face of adversity.
Written by John Spina. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter @jsspina24