The always excellent Andrew Mason had a few interesting nuggets to share regarding the Denver Broncos mini-camp. The one that really struck me was his observation regarding the newest addition to the Broncos defensive line, Marvin Austin. Said Mason:
"But offseason pickup Marvin Austin could be the one who shuffles the deck. Talent has never been Austin’s problem; injuries have. He looks fast coming off the snap and helped set up the defensive ends to collapse the pocket. We’ll know more when full pads go on during training camp, but on Tuesday, Austin looked like he could flourish. As I watched Austin, I thought about where this position group was during the 2011 training camp, and how far it has come. One of the league’s worst, most depth-shy units has gradually become one of its best. If Austin emerges, there could be an excruciating cut coming — or he could be the insurance policy in case there’s another injury this summer."
I was high on Austin when he was coming out of North Carolina in 2011. I was really hoping that the Broncos would draft him. He ended up getting drafted by the New York Giants in the 2nd round. He washed out of New York and spent a short time with the Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys, before finding himself a free agent for the 3rd time. It’s funny how things work out. Serendipity, baby.
As Mason mentioned, Austin has never been deficient in the talent department. He’s simply had terrible luck with the injury bug. My hope is that he will thrive physically under the direction of the Broncos Strength and Conditioning Coach, Luke Richesson.
Richesson has a very unique approach to how he treats and trains his players. There’s a reason he was named the NFL’s Strength and Conditioning Coach of 2013.
Austin will also benefit from working under Defensive Coordinator, Jack Del Rio. Del Rio has a history of getting the most out of his defensive line. Terrance Knighton is a perfect example of this.
Knighton was drafted by Del Rio when he was the Head Coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, back in 2009. Knighton thrived early in Del Rio’s system, but once Del Rio was fired, Knighton’s star began to dim in Jacksonville.
When he signed with the Broncos as a free agent last year, he was considered an underachiever, but Del Rio and his defensive coaching staff, mined Knighton’s vast potential and it resulted in a career turnaround for Pot Roast. His efforts were key in the Broncos post-season run last season, especially in the AFC title game vs the New England Patriots. The Patriots rushed for 234 yards and 6 TDs the week before vs the Indianapolis Colts in the Divisional Round. Against the Broncos, they could only muster 64 yards on the ground, and that was due, in large part, to Terrance Knighton.
Can Marvin Austin follow suit and turn the ship around in Denver? Yes, he can. He has the talent and an excellent staff to keep him in tip-top physical shape.
The Broncos defensive line is going to be a force to be reckoned with in 2014. Derek Wolfe, Terrance Knighton, Sly Williams, and DeMarcus Ware round out the projected starting slots. But behind them the team will have Malik Jackson, Kevin Vickerson, Marvin Austin, and Quanterus Smith.
The Broncos haven’t had that much depth on the defensive line for years. Maybe not since the back-to-back Super Bowl Champion teams of ’97-98.
The question is, if Austin continues this upward trajectory, who will find themselves on the outside looking in? It could be Mitch Unrein. However, don’t count him out quite yet. He’s a utility guy and the Broncos coaching staff loves him. It’ll be interesting to see how it all shakes out, but regardless, this is a good problem to have.