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Ranking the AFC West: Inside linebackers

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Who takes the top spot in patrolling the inside of the linebacking corps?

1. Chiefs - Derrick Johnson, Josh Mauga

Even at the age of 33, Derrick Johnson is the best inside linebacker in this division. He has made the Pro Bowl in each of his last four complete seasons, and is a one-time All Pro. He routinely posts over 100 combined tackles and is the leader of that Kansas City defense which was 3rd in the league with fewest points allowed and 7th in yards allowed last season. Mauga has been with the team the past two seasons and in 2014 took over as the fulltime starter when Johnson was lost to injury and the team didn’t skip a beat. Even with Johnson in the lineup, Mauga remained a fulltime starter last season, posting 2 interceptions and 3 passes defended and 57 combined tackles in 14 games.

2. Broncos - Brandon Marshall, Todd Davis

The loss of Danny Trevathan will be felt by this defense. Brandon Marshall was also a big part of the Broncos defense the past two seasons and his presence puts them as the second best unit in the division. There isn’t much that can be expected from Todd Davis. He joined the Broncos midway through the 2014 season and has started 4 games since then.

3. Chargers Manti Te’o/Joshua Perry, Denzel Perryman

The talent in these two is mostly in Denzel Perryman. He was the team’s second round pick in 2015 and had a very solid rookie season, appearing in 14 games with 9 starts. Mr Lenay Kekua-Te’o has been mediocre throughout his career and could see his playing time diminish in favor of fourth round rookie Joshua Perry.

4. Raiders Malcolm Smith, Ben Heeney

It was a tough call putting this duo at the bottom of the division. Smith played admirably last season since being moved inside, but he is better suited as an outside linebacker. Heeney is a true inside linebacker and he showed great instincts and closing speed, flashing a lot of potential as a rookie fifth round pick. The team has not made a concerted effort to bulk up the inside linebacker spot either high in the draft or in free agency. Curtis Lofton was added last offseason and was a liability on the field, leading to his being released this offseason.

Also see AFC West rankings for:

Running back
Wide receivers
Tight end
Offensive tackles
Offensive guards
Defensive tackles
Defensive ends
Outside linebackers