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Broncos depth at linebacker will be tested

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Throughout the offseason Denver Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan lauded the team’s depth at the position, offering "we’ve got guys who can do so many things and we can line up a lot of ways."

Well, things change and often that change comes quickly. Just two games into this regular season and the Broncos are facing a far different look on the depth chart at linebacker and it may affect how they can line up Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.

"We know some guys have some things," said middle linebacker Nate Irving. "Our job to pick it up, whoever is in there has to get the job done. We don’t make excuses."

It started in training camp when Trevathan suffered a fracture at the top of his tibia. The team’s leading tackler in 2013, and the starter on the weak side, did not play in the preseason as a result of the injury and is not expected to play in the regular season for a few more weeks.

Then Sunday against the Chiefs, the Broncos took a hit on the strong side of the formation when Von Miller suffered a groin injury after his backup Lerentee McCray had suffered a right knee injury earlier in the game when former Broncos tackle Ryan Harris hit McCray low in pass protection.

Miller played on in the game after it appeared his legs were pinned awkwardly as he made a tackle earlier in the day. In the end, Miller ended up leaving the game in the fourth quarter -- he played 57 of the team’s 86 plays on defense.

The Broncos were already using McCray to spell Miller at times as Miller is just eight months out from ACL surgery.

Those two injuries forced the Broncos to alter things in their base defense. They moved Irving, who was Miller’s backup last season and started late in the year -- including the Broncos' three playoff games after Miller’s ACL surgery -- into a more strong-side role with Steven Johnson in the lineup as well. Brandon Marshall, already filling in for Trevathan, stayed on the weak side.

Asked Monday if he was concerned Miller could miss time, Broncos head coach John Fox said; "I get concerned about all the players."

McCray, who spent the 2013 season on injured reserve with an ankle injury, underwent an MRI for was described as an injury that would cause him to miss some time.

Fox said "it’s not season-ending or anything of that nature.”

But it could force the Broncos into some decisions as they are poised to face the Seahawks’ power run game. The Chiefs found some success against the Broncos by running the ball against the Broncos’ nickel package (five defensive backs).

So, if the Broncos find themselves in a nickel look against the Seahawks’ three-wide set that includes wide receiver Percy Harvin as a potential runner, with two linebackers in the formation, they’re going to have to get off blocks in a lighter formation in the front seven than they did in the first half against the Chiefs.

If they line up in their base look, with three linebacker, if Miller doesn’t play Sunday the Broncos will have backups in two of the three linebacker spots.

The Broncos could also use safety T.J. Ward, who often lines up as a linebacker in some of the specialty looks, in a bigger variety of roles and play Quinton Carter at Ward’s strong safety spot as well. But keeping the Seahawks from setting the tempo with physical play in the run game has to be Job 1.

"Again whoever is in there has to play," Irving said. "Nobody on the outside is going to care what you have to go through. We just have to go out there and get it done, whatever it takes."