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Film Room: Kenny Young is the Linebacker the Broncos Needed

The Broncos have made yet another trade, this time for linebacker Kenny Young. Was this a good move?
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With the Denver Broncos' playoff hopes quickly evaporating, the team opted to make yet another trade before the deadline. On Monday, the Broncos reportedly sent a 2024 sixth-round draft pick to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for linebacker Kenny Young and a 2024 seventh-rounder.

While trading future assets for a player in a potentially lost season may seem like a bad idea, the Broncos desperately needed to make a move at linebacker. The team already lost starter Josey Jewell for the season, and recently had to place fellow starter Alexander Johnson on injured reserve as well. The team is simply decimated at the position, so adding an experienced player doesn't hurt at all.

In today's film room, I dive into Young's background and why this low-risk trade is exactly what the team needed to stay somewhat afloat in the 2021 season.

Background

Young is a former fourth-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens taken back in the 2018 NFL draft. He had a solid NFL Combine prior to the draft, posting a 7.39 RAS score according to Kent Lee Platte of Pro Football Network.

Young appeared in 22 games for the Ravens before being traded to the Rams in the deal for Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters. Young quickly got up to speed with his new defense and ended up starting 13 games over the last two years for the team.

Young now comes to the Broncos in the middle of his best career season, according to Pro Football Focus. He has 46 tackles, six tackles for a loss, a forced fumble, and two sacks on the year.

Flashes on Film

Young isn't anything special on film, hence why he was traded for a future late day-three pick swap. I do like quite a few aspects of his game, though.

He is a typical, new-age athletic linebacker that is at his best in more of a weak-side role. He excels when he can run-and-chase, rather than filling a run gap and shedding a lead block. He has the athleticism to be a good coverage player and flashes quite a bit when he is simply asked to shoot gaps in the run game.

I also really like his awareness on film. The ability may not always be there, but he is typically in the right position to make a play. The clip below is a great example. He gets a quick read on the run play and shoots the gap before the guard can reach him at the second level.

The tackle attempt could be much better in this situation, but he is the main reason why this is a tackle for a loss.

Young's run defense is at its peak when he is crashing off the backside, though. He doesn't have to worry about shedding blocks from that spot (typically) and he can simply attack the ball-carrier unimpeded.

This clip below is probably his best run defense rep of the season. He shoots the backside 'B' gap and tracks down the running back in the backfield for the tackle for a loss. Adding this type of athleticism to the Broncos' linebacker room should help improve what has been a terrible run defense the last few weeks.

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Young can also be used creatively as a blitzer on this defense. With all the injuries at defensive end recently for the Broncos, adding a legit athlete that can move sideline to sideline and bring pressure quickly up the middle is a huge plus.

He does an excellent job on this clip of disguising the blitz pre-snap. As soon as the play starts, he fires through the 'A' gap with great speed. He gets little resistance from the running back, as he barrels through the block for the sack of Tom Brady.

Lastly, I think that Young is perfectly fine in pass coverage (despite what the advanced stats would say). He has allowed quite a few completions this year, much like every zone linebacker in coverage, but he is mostly good at getting to his spots and making tackles.

Young's range and athleticism are a huge plus in this department, and he has good eyes in coverage. He also moves fairly well in man coverage and can run with receivers as long as he has help over the top. 

Overall, I think Fangio will use him pretty well in the passing game with the Broncos.

Bottom Line

The Broncos' trade for Young certainly doesn't move the needle for this embattled team. It does, however, bring in a stable veteran who has played some decent football in his career.

Young won't be able to fix every issue that this team is currently going through, but he should be able to fix some of the concerns stemming from poor linebacker play on defense.


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