Broncos Defense Fully Healthy For First Time Since 2012


Sep 7, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. and safety Rahim Moore (26) react during the second half against the against the Indianapolis Colts at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

With the return of injured linebacker Danny Trevathan, the Denver Broncos will have their fully healthy expected starting group of 11 players on opening day playing together for the first time since the 2012 season. The Broncos, having lost players like Von Miller and a wide variety of others throughout last season, were never able to trot out their preferred top 11 guys defensively for a single game, including the playoffs.

The motto for last year’s defense was “Next Man Up” and while you can look at this year’s squad already and say that Brandon Marshall has been the poster child for that group, the Broncos have been working their way back to full strength rather than trying to depend on someone like Marshall to fill a role for a long period of time.

This is a really exciting week for the Broncos, who are coming off the bye to face the undefeated Arizona Cardinals. Fresh off a loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the Broncos are looking to get to 3-1 and prove that they can hang with the rough and tough teams in the NFC West. Arizona is certainly a tough team, but their offense presents a pretty favorable matchup for the Broncos, especially with the unfortunate news that Carson Palmer isn’t likely to play due to a nerve injury.

“We haven’t had our whole 100 percent on defense yet so it’s going to be scary to see what we look like,” Harris said.

With Drew Stanton likely the starter, and the Cardinals’ offensive line in the state that it is, this healthy Denver defense is ready to feast, and ready to also continue improving upon a start that has shown plenty of flashes of dominance.

"“We haven’t had our whole 100 percent on defense yet so it’s going to be scary to see what we look like,” Harris said, smiling. “I’m excited for Danny, just for really everybody. Just finally being together as a whole, no missing links of people being hurt. It’s been so long since we’ve had everybody together. It’s kind of crazy.”"

It’s been longer than Harris even knows. This is a sad trend that dates back to Peyton Manning’s first year with the Broncos. Fans have gotten used to the Broncos being so good these last three seasons that it hasn’t really been a major deal for this team to be missing a few players, because other guys pick up the slack and the Broncos obviously made enough big plays last season to earn a Super Bowl bid.

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But for those who have wondered what it’s like for the defense to finally be together as a whole, and how much of a difference that would make, we finally get to see that on Sunday. What we have yet to see from the Broncos as a defense and as a team in general is a full four quarters (or four quarters and overtime) of rock solid football. The Broncos have had so many silly penalties — 17 by the defense in the first three games — as well as mental lapses that shouldn’t happen to elite teams.

Not well coached ones.

The Broncos know things take time to come together. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. The Broncos may have had all offseason to get chemistry with each other and learn tendencies, but it’s going to take time for this team to gel and even with a fully healthy unit, we might still see some areas of miscommunication.

The good news is, the return of Danny Trevathan helps everyone. Trevathan was the guy last year making all the calls. People might be hesitant to say it, but he was really the Broncos’ co-defensive MVP along with Chris Harris Jr. last season. Those are two guys who work their tails off, a reflection of the chip on their shoulder based on where they were drafted, or in Harris’ case, not drafted at all.

With Von Miller returning to form and DeMarcus Ware’s first step as good as it’s ever looked, this Broncos defense at full strength should be able to inflict some fear into the rest of the league with a homecoming game against the Cardinals on Sunday.

Sure, these aren’t your father’s Cardinals, but this is a Broncos team that is hungry, excited, smart, and ready to prove to the rest of the league that they are a championship team every single week.

Let’s hope we see that fire all day on Sunday.