The Denver Broncos were ravaged by injuries on the defensive side of the ball in 2013, and combined with the suspension of Von Miller, we never really saw what this team is truly capable of doing based on the improvements made in 2012.
The first domino to fall for Denver last year in their defensive debacle was the apparent issue of a fax not going through, causing Elvis Dumervil to be let go after what had seemed like a fantastic few offseason additions.
Denver knew it was going to have to make tough cuts eventually, and had Dumervil not been cut last year, it may have been this year. But with Dumervil out, no matter the odd circumstance, it was up to Von Miller to shoulder the pass rush duties for the Broncos, and they signed up Shaun Phillips to try and help out with that having Robert Ayers in place to replace Dumervil’s RDE position.
Von Miller, as we all know, was suspended for six games, came back slow, and then tore his ACL against the Texans in the second to last game of the season.
Prior to the Broncos’ showdown with the Chiefs in Kansas City, they learned of what would turn out to be an eventual season-ending injury for defensive end Derek Wolfe, forcing them to sign Jaguars defensive end Jeremy Mincey for the rest of the season. The Broncos also lost guys like Champ Bailey, Rahim Moore, Kevin Vickerson, Wesley Woodyard, Chris Harris, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for a time.
The them was ‘Next Man Up’ but it seemed like eventually there wasn’t anyone else to call upon for the Broncos.
They used so many defensive combinations last year, that Shaun Phillips of all people led the team in sacks, Danny Trevathan led the team in tackles, and Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton became the face of the unit for a while.
That all changed at the outset of free agency with the additions of T.J. Ward, Aqib Talib, and DeMarcus Ware, all Pro Bowl players who will join forces with this Denver defense to provide depth and some true elite talent, but even more so than that, the Broncos are adding a dynamic dimension to their defensive scheming.
Specifically, I want to point out how important DeMarcus Ware can be for this team. The Broncos have a lot of really good players on their front seven, if they can stay healthy. We’re talking about guys like Von Miller, the former rookie of the year and defensive POtY candidate, Danny Trevathan, the guy who led the team in tackles, Derek Wolfe, Terrance Knighton, Kevin Vickerson, Sylvester Williams, and Malik Jackson. These guys are talented, and they have proven to be very productive thus far in their careers.
But adding DeMarcus Ware will allow the Broncos to use so many different defensive groupings. When you watch Ware play, there might not be anyone in the NFL that is quicker off the snap when fully healthy. Ware is a future Hall of Fame player who has been insanely productive ever since he came into the league back in 2005, which doesn’t seem that long ago but at the same time feels like a previous generation.
With Ware on one side and Von Miller on the other, the Broncos–in theory–have an opportunity to have a pass rush that is as good as the one they faced in the Super Bowl. Possibly even better.
The personnel groupings at this point are endless. Denver has the opportunity to use Miller/Ware standing up or with their hand in the ground. They have versatile players like Malik Jackson and Derek Wolfe that can play either defensive end or tackle. They have corners like Chris Harris and Kayvon Webster that can play inside or out, and they have a couple of versatile safeties in T.J. Ward and Rahim Moore, who are both hitters and very capable in coverage.
In other words, the Broncos’ defense added some much needed toughness and not only do you upgrade the pass rush with DeMarcus Ware significantly, but you get a huge upgrade from the return of Von Miller and all the other defenders who were out last year.
These are huge moves for the Denver defense, and John Elway wasn’t kidding when he said he didn’t want any glaring needs going into the draft. This is a huge start to the offseason for the AFC Champion Broncos to get back where they want to be next season.