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Broncos DC Evero Talks Up UDFA ILB Kana'i Mauga: 'Sharp Kid, Very Coachable'

A Denver dark horse?

The Denver Broncos devoted zero picks to its inside linebacker corps via last month's 2022 NFL Draft. Assumingly, this was by design as the team had already allocated free-agent dollars to Josey Jewell, Alex Singleton, and Jonas Griffith. The troika alone satiates new defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, whose sub-heavy scheme does not emphasize the off-ball position.

Be that as it may, there's another ILB roaming the field at Dove Valley — Kana'i Mauga, an undrafted rookie out of USC — who caught Evero's eye during Denver's recent minicamp practices. And a dark horse was born.

“He's a sharp kid, very coachable," Evero said on May 14. "All of the things that we asked of him, he's been able to do. We're excited to get him with the other guys and see what he can do.”

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A 43-game collegiate contributor, Mauga registered 205 total tackles (105 solo), 16.5 tackles for loss, six pass deflections, five sacks, three interceptions, and two forced fumbles for the Trojans from 2018-2021. The 6-foot, 245-pound defender was an All-Pac-12 honorable mention as a senior, leading the program with 90 combined tackles.

Mauga wasn't invited to February's Scouting Combine but clocked a 4.65 forty time during his Pro Day. With 33 1/4" arms and a see-ball-get-ball mentality, the Hawaii native excels against the pass — evidenced by his 84.0 coverage grade last season, per Pro Football Focus.

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"We’ve seen high-quality play from Mauga before — not just from a college football perspective but also from an NFL Draft perspective," Pro Football Network analyst Ian Cummings wrote in August 2021. "When he’s on, Mauga has the explosiveness, density, and play pace to be a constant threat."

While Mauga has little chance of unseating Jewell or Singleton for starting dibs, depending on how many ILBs the Broncos carry, it isn't unreasonable to think he could push third-year man Justin Strnad off the final roster. Or, at the least, earn his way onto the practice squad.

There's some there, there.

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