Dec 12, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio reacts during the game against the San Diego Chargers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Chargers defeated the Broncos 27-20. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Could The Broncos Defense Be The Best In The NFL?


When Jack Del Rio first came to the Denver Broncos in 2012, he had some expectations to live up to. The Broncos defense had made a name for itself in 2011. But that was under Dennis Allen.

Allen, as a first time coordinator, coordinated the Broncos’ defense so well that it earned him a job as the Head Coach of the Oakland Raiders. We all remember that defense, led by Champ Bailey, Von Miller, and Elvis Dumervil, wreaking havoc and keeping the Tebow-led offense in contention, so that he could work his 4th quarter miracles. Well, *cough* Tebow and Matt Prater.

In his first season as Defensive Coordinator, Del Rio hit the ground running. The high flying offense, led by Peyton Manning, ran up the score and it allowed the defense to pin back it’s ears and be aggressive and creative. By season’s end, the Broncos were the 2nd best defensive unit in the NFL. Only the Pittsburgh Steelers allowed less yards per game.

Between the 2012 Broncos offense and defense, it looked like a formula destined for the Super Bowl. And then Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens came into Denver and through a series of their own miracles, pulled of the upset in the Divisional Round.

Going into the 2013 off-season, everyone expected the defense to continue their dominance on the field. But then we had the Elvis Dumervil “Fax-gate” fiasco and he was subsequently released, only to sign with the Ravens. To replace him, the Broncos signed Shaun Phillips.

But then Von Miller got suspended for 6 games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. He didn’t see the field until week 7 vs the Indianapolis Colts. And when he did return, he was 20lbs heavier.

Then Champ Bailey injured his foot in the pre-season and never quite returned to form and Derek Wolfe went down with a neck injury. The odds were beginning to get stacked against the NFL’s 2nd ranked defense, before the games began to even count.

The entire 2013 season was plagued by injuries for the Denver Broncos and the pain was felt most acutely on the defensive side of the ball. By the time the Broncos reached the Super Bowl, the team was without 5 defensive starters. Von Miller, Chris Harris, Jr, Kevin Vickerson, Derek Wolfe, and Rahim Moore all watched the big game from the sideline.

There’s no getting around the fact that as an organization, the Denver Broncos overcame some monumental odds to earn their 7th Super Bowl berth. But it wasn’t enough. The team fell short of the ultimate goal.

But a new season brings with it a new life. Guys are getting their health back. The Broncos have added an immense level of talent via free agency and the draft. DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward, Aqib Talib and first round pick, Bradley Roby, will all impact the Broncos defense in a big way in 2014.

And it’s a good thing, because the Broncos schedule is fraught with some tough matchups. Not only will the Broncos have to play the entire NFC West, but they’ll also have to do battle with the Colts, Patriots, Bengals, and of course, the Chiefs (twice) and Chargers (twice).

Del Rio knows it’s an uphill battle. And that the Broncos will have to regain their 2012 form if they’re to repeat as the AFC’s best team and win the Super Bowl.

I like what Chris Harris, Jr had to say on the matter:

“We can be one of the best groups in the league,” Harris said. “ … I mean, two years ago we were a top-five defense in the league. I think we have the people to do that again and in secondary I think we have a chance to be one of the best.”

Del Rio has all of the tools he needs. With Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware coming off the edge, getting after QBs, it’s going to be very difficult for opposing offenses. Add to that a healthy and revamped secondary, and it becomes very disheartening for the opposition.

The big boys on the defensive line, like Terrance Knighton and Sly Wiliams, won’t make it easy to run the ball. I’m excited to see players like Danny Trevathan, Malik Jackson, Derek Wolfe, Nate Irving and Rahim Moore, all continue to improve and take their game to another level.

Can Del Rio orchestrate a rebirth of Orange Crush? All of the pieces are in place. We’ll have our answer very soon. But if I were a bettin’ man, I’d put my money on the Orange and Blue.

Tags: Denver Broncos Jack Del Rio NFL

  • Nathan Bates

    this defense has the potential to be one of the best in history if it can stay healthy.

    • Chad Jensen

      Health willing. Knock on wood

    • MH11

      saying “history” is pushing it… If you said “season” i would agree

  • SayreBedinger

    I think while many would scoff at this notion, there is a lot of validity to it. First of all, you talked about how key Jack Del Rio is to all this. His scheme has been very effective since coming to Denver, especially in 2012 when Miller/Dumervil were healthy all year.

    I also think the thing you have to think about is depth. Since the Broncos had so many injuries last year, young players had to step up, and thus received more than anticipated playing time. Guys like Kayvon Webster, Sly Williams, and Malik Jackson were huge benefactors of the injury rotation we were on last year.

    So now, you bring back those key young guys, returning players from injury, and then give yourself the added bonus of Ware, Talib, Ward, and Roby.

    Boom.

    • Chad Jensen

      Very well stated.

      • creative_dude

        Love real football. Love the Broncos, but also love seeing top plays by anyone who makes em (just wish they would save those great plays till they were playing someone else). But we have a major problem with football in the here and now. These guys are so fast, and so strong, and so big that human bodies have trouble holding up to the pounding. I’m not just thinking of the broncos but all those guys out there playing at such an incredible level. Increase the length of the season. Not by adding more games but by giving everyone another week off. As far as that goes, I believe that a team should not play a thursday game unless they are coming off a bye week. That is for all the players. Raise the level of play. Add more bye weeks. TV would probably love it. I would.

  • Scooge

    I certainly think if this group can stay healthy, they have the opportunity to be great. Another player I am interested in seeing is Lamin Barrow. Elway has had success in the later rounds of the draft before, and I’m excited to see what Barrow can do.

    • Chad Jensen

      Amen