Every team in the NFL suffers injuries, and that’s nothing new. However, it seems like injuries in the league are at an all-time high, or the Broncos have just been really, really unlucky, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Let’s forget about losing Ryan Clady for the moment, and just consider the players that have either been out for the year or have missed significant time for the Broncos defensively this year:
CB Champ Bailey
LB Von Miller
S Rahim Moore
S Quinton Carter
LB Stewart Bradley
CB Chris Harris
DE Derek Wolfe
DT Kevin Vickerson
And that’s not including time missed by Wesley Woodyard and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, whose absence in the second half against New England was one of the most significant injuries of the season for Denver.
With Chris Harris and Derek Wolfe being placed on injured reserve, I think it’s appropriate that I introduce you to the players that will actually be out on the field for the Broncos defensively when the New England Patriots come to town on Sunday afternoon for the right to play in this year’s Super Bowl.
Jackson was a fifth round pick in 2012 who has turned out to be a significant addition to the Denver Broncos’ defense in 2013. He lead the team in QB hurries and tackles for loss, and proved his versatility by lining up at multiple positions, and proving that he can not only stuff the run, but he can get in the face of QBs as well.
Rookie defensive tackle who has stepped up in a big way (literally) after the injury that put Kevin Vickerson out for the rest of the season. Williams started his rookie year a bit rocky, but has made huge strides in the second half of the year and has the Broncos back to their stingy ways against the run. He’ll be rotating with Sione Fua and Mitch Unrein on the Broncos’ defensive interior.
Knighton was a bargain for the Broncos on the open market, signing a two-year deal and proving to be one of the best run stuffing linemen in the NFL. He’s earning his money this year, and if you don’t know him by this point you should.
Irving was drafted out of NC State in 2011 as a middle linebacker, but has played a much more pivotal role for the Broncos on special teams and as a backup strong-side linebacker, where he serves as the backup to Von Miller. Irving has flashed at times this season, showing an ability to make big hits behind the line of scrimmage.
Lenon was brought in when the Broncos had a rash of injuries at the LB position, but most hoped he wouldn’t have to play much, if at all. He made the final roster and has been a key rotational defender for the Broncos’ stingy run defense.
Trevathan has taken over Wesley Woodyard’s role at the weakside outside linebacker position, and he has thrived. The former sixth round pick has been a playmaker all over the defense, leading the team in tackles, interceptions, and forced fumbles. He is a big time playmaker.
You might remember him. With Chris Harris now out for the season, Bailey is taking back the LCB spot, and his return to health couldn’t come at a better time. The Broncos are going to need Champ to take a dip into the fountain of youth so he can help them beat Tom Brady and move on to the Super Bowl.
DRC has been one of the Broncos’ best offseason moves this year, and has proven he still has #1 shut-down CB abilities. As much was true the last time the Broncos played New England, before he hurt himself diving for a hail mary from Tom Brady at the end of the half. DRC’s decision cost him a lot of time on the field, and changed the course of that game for the Broncos.
“The Duke”, “Nacho Libre” has been in and out of the starting lineup but is a pretty solid in-the-box defender and when opposing teams try to run the ball, he is very tough to get past. Ihenacho reads plays really well and attacks the line of scrimmage, but he still struggles a bit in coverage.
Rahim Moore wasn’t activated by the Broncos this week, even though he is eligible. Perhaps there is a chance he’ll play in the Super Bowl if the Broncos take care of business on Sunday. In the meantime, it’s Mike Adams, who made arguably the best play of his Broncos career in week 16 against the Texans with a game-changing pick. The Broncos are going to need Adams at the top of his game to beat Brady.
The Rest o’ the Crew
- DE Jeremy Mincey
- DE Robert Ayers
- DE Shaun Phillips
- LB Brandon Marshall
- LB Steven Johnson
- CB Quentin Jammer
- CB Tony Carter
- CB Kayvon Webster
- CB Marquice Cole
- S David Bruton
- S Omar Bolden
- S Michael Huff