ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Todd Davis has big cleats to fill — and they're just a few feet away from him, too.
Davis is the leading contender to earn a starting inside linebacker job that opened up when Danny Trevathan left via free agency after the Denver Broncos' Super Bowl run.
Brandon Marshall is sliding over to Trevathan's old "Mo" linebacker position, leaving Davis to try to fend off Corey Nelson and win the "Mike" linebacker job.
Marshall heaped praise on Davis earlier this week and after the Broncos wrapped up their second week of OTAs Thursday, it was defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' turn.
"He may not seem like it off the field, but he's really an intense guy. I don't know if I've been around — well, I was around (Chris) Spielman at Buffalo — but he reminds me of the same kind of temperament. He's intense every play on the field," Phillips said.
Davis was flattered by such a comparison.
He also considers himself lucky to have Marshall right next to him as he tries to carve out this bigger niche in his game.
Like outside linebackers Von Miller (financial) and DeMarcus Ware (back), Marshall has yet to line up in 11-on-11 drills since the Super Bowl. In addition to surgery to remove screws from his right foot, Marshall had to have his right forefinger surgically repaired and he said he doesn't anticipate regaining full motion until training camp next month.
So, for now, Davis has had to seek Marshall's guidance on the sideline or in the classroom but he looks forward to playing alongside him soon.
"It's been great being able to come off the field even now in practices and asking Brandon what do you see as far as my technique is, my intensity or how I cover man-to-man, like what do you see?" Davis said. "It definitely helps with him having played the position being there to help me and guide me through the whole process."
Marshall's absence from team drills has given Davis and Nelson plenty of action with the starters to try to impress the coaching staff.
"On the first day Coach (Gary Kubiak) said, 'It's going to be one of you two next to Brandon and we'll see what happens,'" Marshall said. "I love both of those guys. Both of them are good. Both of them want to be good. I think either one will be a great asset to the team. Right now it's Todd. Todd is playing extremely well. He has high intensity and he's very instinctive. Corey is very athletic. They both have great assets they can bring to the team."
Davis has a slight edge in experience. He's made four spot starts since the Broncos claimed him off waivers from New Orleans on Nov. 13, 2014. Nelson, a seventh-round draft pick out of Oklahoma in 2014, hasn't started any games although he's played in all 16 games in both of his NFL seasons.
Davis had no idea when he first got to Denver whether the Broncos viewed him as a quick fix or not, but he was just eager for a fresh start after bouncing back and forth between the Saints' practice squad and 53-man roster.
"It was my dream to be in this position," Davis said. "... Now that I'm here, I definitely want to take full advantage of this opportunity and can't wait for the season to start."
The Broncos thought so highly of Davis and Nelson that GM John Elway didn't draft any inside linebackers this year.
"I definitely was tracking on my phone seeing what the Broncos were going to do because at the time I didn't know what direction they were going with," Davis said. "But when they didn't pick up anybody it definitely felt good. It let us know that they had faith in the inside linebacker corps that they have now, that they believed in us."
Nelson saw it as a challenge as much as a vote of confidence.
"I just looked at it as the pressure's on," Nelson said. "Now it's time for us to perform and show them that we can do it."
Notes: Special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis on the Broncos' visit to the White House on Monday: "I've been on the losing side twice, and they definitely don't invite you then." ... Phillips said S Shiloe Keo was excused Thursday to attend the birth of his son.
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