The Broncos’ defense is going to see a huge makeover this season, and it’s not just because of the millions upon millions of dollars they spent in free agency. Thanks to the return of so many injured players from a year ago, the Broncos are going to have almost an entirely different starting 11 defensively than they had in the Super Bowl.
When you look at the starting rotation across the board, guys who will be starting at the same position as they did in the Super Bowl will be few and far in between, and off the top of my head I can think of only two — Terrance Knighton at defensive tackle and Danny Trevathan at weakside linebacker — that will be returning starters from the Super Bowl at the same position.
And with all the returning faces come some new faces, and some guys the Broncos had stashed away on injured reserve that were exciting prospects in 2013.
One name in particular that Broncos fans keep asking about and wondering about is second year defensive end Quanterus Smith out of Western Kentucky, who has been closely monitored by Andrew Mason, one of the best in the business. Mason writes that Smith has been getting work on the defensive line opposite DeMarcus Ware, and has showed the explosiveness the Broncos loved on tape when they drafted him in the fifth round in 2013.
The last two weeks, Smith has displayed the speed around the edge the Broncos expected to see when they drafted him in the fifth round last year. But he also forced a hurried incompletion from Manning with a quick move to the inside, and is starting to develop multiple moves beyond ones based on his speed.
“I think the important thing for Quanterus is just to get the time playing,” said Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio. “You’ve just got to play football, get the reps. He’s clearly light years ahead of where he was last year.”
When Smith practiced during training camp last year, he was eight months removed from the torn anterior cruciate ligament that depressed his draft stock and kept him from being a likely second-day selection. Smith showed flashes of brilliance, but wasn’t the same as he was at Western Kentucky. Now, he’s back.
“He was trying to fight his way through the injury. Ended up getting that time, which he needed, and he’s much better in every facet,” Del Rio said. “He’s healthy, he’s more mature, more sure of himself, and he’s doing a good job so far.”
The Broncos have a very intriguing young rotation on the defensive line. With Malik Jackson’s emergence a year ago, the return of Derek Wolfe, and the continued progress of Sylvester Williams, the Broncos are building a foundation for the future that has a chance to be really special coming off the edges.
Smith is a major part of that.
The Broncos have done a great job of managing their roster, and right now have nine or ten guys who could make for viable options on the 53 man roster, and Smith is a player they were really high on coming out of college at Western Kentucky. One of his best collegiate performances came against an Alabama squad that featured two top 50 selections at offensive tackle, and he repeatedly beat Cyrus Kouandjio, the ‘Bama left tackle around the edge.
The speed of Smith is an element to the depth of the defensive line of the Broncos that will be more than welcome as last year, they didn’t have a whole lot of it.
It’s going to be really exciting to see what he can bring to the table this season.