January 19, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton (94) reacts to a tackle in the second half against the New England Patriots in the 2013 AFC Championship football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
For so long an area of incredible weakness and void of talent, the Denver Broncos’ defensive tackle position is now arguably one of the strongest on the team.
That’s tough to say on a roster full of stars, but at least compared to years past, the defensive tackle unit in Denver is much improved, revamped, and fully loaded with depth, youth, talent, and experience alike.
It almost feels weird.
Thanks to the defensive minds of John Fox, Jack Del Rio, and defensive line coach Jay Rodgers — not to mention the eye for talent of the new front office decision makers — the Broncos were ranked in the top five last year against the run, something that hadn’t been done in a very, very long time. At least, it felt that way.
With that all being said, let’s take a look at a revitalized defensive tackle position in Denver.
Terrance Knighton; Sylvester Williams; Kevin Vickerson; Mitch Unrein; Marvin Austin; Sione Fua
Terrance Knighton is entrenched as the team’s top defensive tackle. He was signed to a two-year deal last offseason in a move that made sense to everyone before it even happened. Knighton was connected to Jack Del Rio from their days in Jacksonville, and he followed him to Denver and was an absolute beast for the Broncos last year. He made a national name for himself as Pot Roast against the New England Patriots when he burst through the line to take down Tom Brady on a key fourth down play.
Knighton will be joined by Sylvester Williams in the starting lineup this year. Williams was drafted by the Broncos in the first round in 2013, and is expected to take big strides in 2014. He’s a quick, physical, nasty prospect who has all the tools to be a big time player at his position.
If healthy, the unit will get a big boost from “Big Vick” aka Kevin Vickerson, who was signed in the Josh McDaniels regime and has made a nice career in Denver. Also returning are Mitch Unrein, who even plays some offense for the Broncos, as well as Sione Fua who was signed last year for depth.
Fua was a third round pick of the Panthers back in 2011, and was a player that many Broncos fans were clamoring for. He was dropped by Carolina and will compete for a roster spot in Denver this year.
The Dark Horse
Potentially the most intriguing case here at defensive tackle is Marvin Austin, the former Giants second round pick and North Carolina Tar Heels star who was at one point considered a top five prospect in his class before being suspended the entire season.
Austin was cut from New York, Miami, and Dallas before having a chance to get fully healthy and show what he can do. DenverBroncos.com contributor and Broncos expert Andrew Mason wrote earlier this offseason that Austin was standing out in practices.
If the Broncos can get the explosive version of Marvin Austin that was once considered a top five pick, I think he’s not only a part of the rotation this season, but could be a fixture in the years to come.