Aug 7, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos defensive end DeMarcus Ware (94) during the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
1. Is the New Look Defense really a House of Cards?
By now we’ve all heard it and most of us have said it. The Broncos are supposed to be (almost) as good on defense this season as they’ve been on offense in the Peyton Manning Era. The additions of DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward, and Aqib Talib along with the return from injury of Von Miller, Chris Harris and Derek Wolfe add some serious muscle to the Denver D at every level. But the likelihood of all six of those players staying in the lineup and having blue-chip seasons isn’t likely. As we saw by the end of last year, sometimes there just isn’t a next man up.
Ware has a reputation of always being dinged up, but he had appeared in all 16 games in his first eights with Dallas before missing three last season due to an elbow injury. Ware has looked like the seven-time Pro-Bowler and four-time All-Pro version of himself during camp, but are the Cowboys really that stupid? It may just be Jerraay being Jerraay, but surely the training and medical staff was consulted before his release. Derek Wolfe has also looked like his former self, and the defensive line appears to be the one place on the Broncos’ roster where depth isn’t a concern. I don’t think I’ve ever said that before (I’m only 34).
Aug 7, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib (21) during the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos won 21-16. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Ware looks like Cal Ripken compared to Aqib Talib, who conversely has NEVER appeared in all 16 games in his five year career. Be it for injury or behavior, Talib has missed an average of five games a season since 2011, and he also got hurt IN THE FIRST HALF in both of the New England Patriots’ playoff losses the past two seasons. There’s not much argument that Talib is an upgrade over Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a
35 year old Champ Bailey (with one wheel) were a year ago, but you’re not a shutdown corner if you can’t be depended on for an entire season.
Von Miller is still progressing back from his ACL injury, and although you’ll hear everyone say he looks just as explosive as before I have a hard time buying it. I know we’ve seen guys like Adrian Peterson bounce right back from knee injuries, but Miller’s burst from the edge is what makes him elite.
Chris Harris suffered his knee injury in the playoffs, so he’s had even less time to recover but will be relied upon to play at a continued high level at the corner opposite Talib. There are questions regarding the nickel corner as well, with Konfidence Killer Kayvon Webster and rookie Bradley Roby battling it out.
Linebacker, especially the Mike, was a question entering the off-season and many felt the Broncos didn’t do enough to address it. Nate Irving is said to be finally ready to take over in the middle but we haven’t seen it yet. Danny Trevathan, who has become a true leader and a tackling machine, was lost earlier in the week to a leg injury that will likely sideline him until after the Week 4 bye.
Brandon Marshall gets the first chance to fill in, but he has only appeared in six regular season games in his two years in the league. There is zero proven experience behind him.
If everything goes right for the Broncos’ defense they could be on a level that will make Mercury Morris and the ’72 Dolphins nervous. If even just a couple of things go wrong, they may find themselves again needing to score 45 points to win at the end of the season.