When a lot of Denver Broncos fans think of that number they have fond memories of team legend Tom Jackson and the Orange Crush defense, but for this year’s team, 57 should take on a different meaning.
The 1984 Denver Broncos set the team record for sacks in a season with 57 and they did it with a balanced attack. Rulon Jones lead the team with only 11 sacks, but 15 other players recorded at least one sack that year, including 7 by Karl Mecklenburg and 6 by number 57 Tom Jackson.
The 2014 defensive line for the Denver Broncos is shaping up to be one of the most talented and deepest the team has had in recent memory. With that depth of talent, the Broncos should pressure the team record for sacks in a season utilizing a balanced attack similar to those 1984 Broncos.
DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller have already talked about sack records for a duo and making history, and judging by the success they have had individually in their careers and how they have been playing in camp, it certainly is not outside the realm of possibility.
“Why not be the tandem that can say it was the best in the league ever.” – DeMarcus Ware
DeMarcus Ware told Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post, “We want to have as many sacks as one team, me and Von talk all the time about it. He threw a number out there, and I said, ‘Why not be the tandem that can say it was the best in the league ever. ‘That’s what you want.”
While Ware and Miller’s goal to have more sacks than a team is a lofty one, they will need help from their teammates to be considered the premier pass rushing defense in team history and to break the all-time Denver Bronco team record for sacks.
DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller are the headliners, but they have plenty of help to chase down the team record. The rest of the starting line figures to be Terrance Knighton and Sylvester Williams at defensive tackle, and Derek Wolfe at the end opposite Ware. However, it is the quality of depth that should allow the Broncos to pursue the team record.
It seems like every other day a report is coming out of Broncos camp of another Defensive lineman having a great day, or turning the heads of the coaching staff.
Three players making a lot of noise in camp are Quanterus Smith, Marvin Austin and Kenny Anunike. All three have been having a great camp by reports, and each one carried their stand-out play into the first preseason game against the Seahawks. In addition to them, Malik Jackson is already established and had a lot of success last season rushing the passer.
While 57 sacks is a lot for a team, it’s not an outrageous number. The Carolina Panthers led the league last year with 60. If we dive into the individual players the Broncos have and look at the stats, we see that 57 becomes a realistic goal.
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If Ware and Miller live up to their weighty goal and have more sacks than a team, then that would put them in the neighborhood of 30 combined sacks. That would leave 28 sacks for the rest of the team to break the team record.
Malik Jackson had 6 last year and figures to be more heavily involved. He should have no problem at least repeating that number of 6. That leaves 22 sacks to go.
Derek Wolfe has said he is as healthy as he has ever been in his life, and, coming off a year where he almost lost his ability to play football, should be extremely motivated. He had 6 sacks his rookie year, and playing opposite Ware, will see one-on-one matchups all the time. He should easily attain 6 sacks. That leaves 16 sacks to go.
Terrance Knighton busted out in a big way down the stretch and in the playoffs last year and is another ascending talent. He can penetrate from the DT spot and had 4 sacks last year in the regular and postseason. There is no reason to believe he can’t replicate that number, since he got markedly better in the 2nd half of the season. That would leave 12 sacks to go.
Sylvester Williams likewise started to come into his own in the 2nd half of the season. While he only had 2 sacks last year, he rarely played in the first half of the season. With a starting spot and a full year, he should be able to double that number. If he can attain 4 sacks, that would leave 8 sacks to go.
Quanterus Smith will be very involved in the rotation this year as well, and while it’s difficult to gauge how effective he will be and exactly how much playing time he will get, based on the reports from camp and how explosive he was in the first preseason game, 3 sacks seems very conservative. That would leave 5 sacks to go.
Marvin Austin and Kevin Vickerson will also be heavily involved in the rotation at DT and between the two I think it’s very safe to assume they can muster 3 sacks between them. That would leave 2 sacks to go.
Aug 7, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos safety T.J. Ward (43) attempts to sack Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) during the first half at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
We saw a glimpse of TJ Ward’s ability rushing from the safety spot in the first preseason game, which resulted in a sack of Russell Wilson (a very difficult player to sack). He had 1.5 sacks last year and, based on how Del Rio wants to use him, should be able to surpass that number. If Ward can get 2 sacks, that would give the team enough to break the record.
This isn’t assuming any sacks from linebackers outside of Von Miller either.
While these numbers won’t pan out exactly this way, and a lot would have to go right health wise, it at least shows the team record of 57 sacks is very attainable with a balanced attack lead by DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller.
With the wealth of pass-rushing talent Elway and Co. have stock piled this year behind Ware and Miller, if I were a betting man (and I am), I would certainly bet the over of 57 sacks for the 2014 Denver Broncos.