Oct. 26—The Broncos linebacking corps sorely needed depth after injuries claimed starters and backups alike. Veteran outside linebacker Stephen Weatherly needed a chance.
Both sides got what they wanted in a trade Saturday that sent the physical pass-rusher and a 2023 seventh-round pick to the Broncos for a ’22 seventh-rounder.
With a fresh start in Denver, Weatherly doesn’t have a whole lot of time to familiarize himself with coach Vic Fangio’s defense ahead of Sunday’s home game against Washington. So the 6-foot-5, 262-pound Vanderbilt product wasted little time getting to work with outside linebackers coach John Pagano.
"Pagano sat me down (Monday) and right after he shook my hand he said, ‘Okay, let’s go through this film,’" Weatherly said. "I was like, ‘All right, okay coach,’ and I grabbed a notebook and tried to write down as much as possible… The key (to finding a role) is definitely between the ears at this point."
To that end, Weatherly noticed the seat next to Von Miller in the outside linebackers’ room was vacant, so he quickly claimed it Monday. While Miller didn’t practice Tuesday and is day-to-day with an ankle sprain, Weatherly plans to capitalize sitting next to the likely future Hall of Famer. Weatherly was a defensive end in the Vikings’ 4-3 scheme, but will play outside linebacker in Denver’s 3-4 defense. He has 93 career tackles and six sacks in 64 games across six seasons, five with Minnesota and one with Carolina last year.
"I’ll see how (Miller) moves, how he looks at offensive tackles, how he breaks down film," Weatherly said. "I just want to be a sponge."
The trade for Weatherly addressed the Broncos’ thinning depth at outside linebacker. Bradley Chubb (ankle) has played only part of one game and is on injured reserve, as is rookie Andre Mintze (hamstring). Aaron Patrick (signed Sept. 23 off Jacksonville’s practice squad) was dealing with an ankle injury and missed the last two games. That left Malik Reed, Jonathon Cooper and Pita Taumoepenu (played one snap against Cleveland as a practice-squad call-up) at the position after Miller exited last Thursday’s game late in the first half.
Weatherly, the Vikings’ seventh-round pick in 2016, said he was "really excited" when he heard about the trade. He’s familiar with general manager George Paton, who came to Denver from Minnesota’s front office. If Miller can’t play Sunday, Patrick (returned to practice Tuesday) and Weatherly will provide depth behind presumed starters Reed and Cooper, the rookie who showed promise with three quarterback hits against the Browns.
"(The trade) meant I was going to go somewhere and have another shot to prove I can do what it takes to play in this league," Weatherly said.
Fangio said Paton’s move to bring in Weatherly — as well as trading with the Rams for inside linebacker Kenny Young this week — "absolutely" sends a message that the GM isn’t giving up on the Broncos’ season ahead of the Nov. 2 trade deadline. Weatherly was mostly a special teams player for the Vikings but also had nine tackles on defense, while Young had 46 tackles and two sacks while starting all of the Rams’ seven games.
"George is great at what he does; any task is not too big for him," Fangio said. "When he’s presented with a challenge that falls under his jurisdiction, he attacks it. He did it when we lost Jerry (Jeudy) and KJ (Hamler), and he’s done it now (at linebacker)."
Fangio said he isn’t worried about his players being more focused on the trade deadline than preparing to face Washington at Empower Field.
"These trades have been injury-motivated, so I don’t think (players will be distracted)," Fangio said.
To get Weatherly and Young ready for Sunday’s game, Fangio said the duo will have to "overdose on meeting time." Even with that, Fangio’s unsure if they will be ready on such short notice. The Broncos play at Dallas on Nov. 7 and versus Philadelphia on Nov. 14 before the team’s Week 11 bye.
"They’re going to get a lot of extra meeting time, they’re going to have to do a lot of work at home with the iPads," Fangio said. "It’s a lot of extra work, and it’s more mental than physical. We’ll give them as many extra reps in practice as we can. But it’s not an easy chore."
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