The Broncos brought in players this offseason to create competition and also to add flexibility to the roster. Losing players like Elvis Dumervil and Willis McGahee hurt, but the Broncos have reloaded with cheaper and more versatile players.
On defense, the front seven will be able to bring many different looks at opposing offenses. Obviously, Dumervil’s departure stings, but it may not hurt as much as some may think. Dumervil’s most productive seasons came when the Broncos played in a 3-4 defense, where Dumervil played outside linebacker.
The Broncos now primarily play in a 4-3 defense where Dumervil was used as a defensive end. Shaun Phillips will be asked to play a similar role to what Dumervil did but at a much cheaper price. Phillips has the versatility to play both defensive end and a pass-rushing specialist on the outside.
The Broncos will be able to line up in their base 4-3 defense with Robert Ayers and Derek Wolfe at the defensive end positions and a combination of Terrence Knighton, Sylvester Williams, and Kevin Vickerson at the two defensive tackle positions, with Von Miller and Wesley Woodyard as the outside linebackers and Nate Irving as the middle linebacker. When they want to generate a pass rush, they can slide Woodyard to the middle and use Miller and Phillips on the outside to bring some extra heat on the opposing offense. Also, they can show teams a 3-4 look by again sliding Woodyard to the middle alongside Irving, and having Miller and Phillips come off the edges. The addition of Knighton allows the Broncos to use him as a nose tackle in the 3-4 look with players like Wolfe and Williams as the defensive ends.
On offense, the Broncos have so many weapons that they will be able to throw a lot of different looks at opposing defenses. Adding Wes Welker gives the Broncos a third talented receiver that should be able to create mismatches for opposing defenses. Demaryius Thomas will play on the outside, but both Eric Decker and Welker can be swapped into the slot or play on the outside, opposite of Thomas. The Broncos’ depth chart is set currently with three WRs and one RB but the Broncos will also be able to show multiple TE and RB sets with how their roster is set up. The Broncos have not yet had a RB pull away from the pack as the starter but they will be able to run out of the I-Formation and use Jacob Hester as the lead blocker. Hester can also be used as a short-yardage back with his 225lb frame and bulldozing running style. The Broncos used some double TE sets last year with Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen and they will have even more flexibility this year with the emergence of Julius Thomas. Thomas is the most athletic of the three and has looked great this summer. Thomas is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. He’s too fast for most linebacker and too big for most defensive backs.
The Broncos have the personnel to keep other teams off balance on both sides of the ball and that should help them a great deal this season and could be what sets them apart from equally talented teams.