Friday, May 7, 2021

Randy Gradishar's Seven Defensive Positions

 By John Turney 
Randy Gradishar
Karl Mecklenburg was a tremendous player and one of the interesting aspects of his career is he is credited with playing "all seven positions in the defensive front".
Actually, we think it was more than seven. But be that as it may, it should be noted that in the Broncos front that was nothing new for an inside (or outside, for that matter) linebacker.

In the late 1970s Joe Collier, the Broncos Defensive Coordinator deployed Randy Gradishar in a similar fashion, though not as much as Mecklenburg. And to be accurate, though Mecklenburg did play all those positions his primary position was inside linebacker in base and defensive end in nickel.

Similarly, Gradishar's position was inside linebacker, and since his forte was pass coverage in passing situations he stayed as a linebacker in those defenses rather than rushing the passer, which was Mecklenburg's strong suit.

So, with that background, here at some screenshots of the various techniques Gradishar lined up at—which totals seven. 

The Broncos did play some 4-3 and in those schemes Graidahar
was the MIKE, and also in the 33 nickel and in goal line defenses.

Gradishar as a MLB in a 4-3

Gradiahr at RILB in a 3-4

Here is Gradishar at LILB

Gradishar stemming up and back as ILBer, RDT

Again, RDT, makes this a 4-3 under

Here is Gradishar (#53) at RDT to make the Broncos 3-4 into a 4-3

Here is Gradishar (#53) at RDT

Here is Gradishar (#53) at LDT, again,  to make the Broncos 3-4 into a 4-3

Stemming into and out of the LDT (3-tech) position

Gradishar as the RDE in nickel

Gradishar as the LDE in nickel


On occasion, Gradishar would line up over a tackle on the second level

Again, to be clear, this simply shows the Broncos scheme, under Joe Collier, required versatile linebackers, and that included Tom Jackson, Joe Rizzo, and Bob Swenson, though none of them lineup in as many techniques as Gradishar. 

So, when Collier got his new toy, Karl Mecklenburg, in 1983 he simply expanded what had been done before but is was not really anything new. 


  1. ....could go hours on Randy not being in the HoF; and years ago on one of my SB trips had coffee, and a fascinating 30 minute discussion with Tom Jackson concerning Randy's career, and what he meant to that defense. Randal Charles Gradishar is deserving of enshrinement, and will not rest until he is in! Jack Butler got in, .....Randy is next.

  2. Replies
    1. ....just wanted to take the time to thank you amen bailey for your steadfast support over the years.

    2. Yeah no problem man. I love this site and interacting with all the guys here just talking about the sport we all love!

  3. Mark it down ... he will be the next senior enshrined ...

  4. If Urlacher somehow got in on the first ballot; Gradishar should have been in years ago.