Oct 5, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miler (58) sacks Arizona Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton (5) during the first half at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
There was an expectation that the defense would become elite again.
Some said the Denver Broncos would see the return of the Orange Crush, or at least one that is similar.
The additions of TJ Ward, Aqib Talib and DeMarcus Ware forced people to think that way. The return of a healthy Rahim Moore, Derek Wolfe, Chris Harris and Von Miller forced them to double-down.
Four games is far from a big enough sample size to know for sure just how good this defense is or will become. But it gives Broncos Country and teams across the NFL a good indication.
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This defense is good, and it should only get better.
The unit is tough, mean and has some nasty elements to it. Again, those will only amp up as the season goes forward. And for the first time in two seasons, the Denver defense is 100 percent healthy. Hopefully that remains the case for the remainder of the 12 games on the schedule because the Broncos had more than their fill of injuries last season.
When you watch this defense, there is no longer a weakness. The secondary has been a problem for Denver the last two-three seasons. Two years ago, the Broncos had one of the best defenses in football.
They stopped the run and got consistent pressure on the quarterback. But throughout the season, there was that pebble in Denver’s shoe – the secondary. There were times the Broncos thought they were free from that pesky pebble, and then the playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens tripped all of Broncos Country.
Oct 5, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Arizona Cardinals tight end John Carlson (89) is tackled by Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall (54) during the first half at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Again, it’s only four games but this secondary is one of the best Denver has had in a long time. And it can and should get better.
Miler and Ware are returning to form. In those four games, The Outsiders have combined for seven sacks.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Miller and Ware will get better.
Linebacker Danny Trevathan showed how valuable he is to the Denver defense with his return on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. Trevathan played all but a few snaps in the game. That’s after he missed most of the preseason and the first three games due to a lower-leg injury.
There are aspects the Broncos need to improve upon. One that comes to mind is the big play. For the Cardinals game, it was one big play.
Short of the 81-yard touchdown completion to running back Andre Ellington in the third quarter, Arizona didn’t do anything offensively. Even with that play, they didn’t do anything. But if this defense wants to be mentioned with the likes of Seattle and San Francisco, those plays can’t happen. The Cardinals finished with 215 net yards. Take away that 81-yard play, and it finishes with 134 yards and 13 points. Those are the numbers the Broncos expect to see from this defense. And it’s not far from happening. When it does, Denver is near impossible to beat when the offense purrs like it did.
The goal now is to make it happen.
A good place to start is against the terrible New York Jets. The Broncos need to put forth another complete domination on the defensive side of the ball. Only this Sunday, they can’t allow the Jets anything through the air or on the ground. No more big plays. They also have to continue to force opponents into three-and-outs. The Broncos have forced a league best 32 percent of opponents’ drives, 16-of-50, to end in a three-and-out.
When Denver does that, take the ball away. That’s an aspect this defense needs to develop. The Broncos won by three touchdowns against Arizona, but they were still minus-two in the turnover battle. That cannot continue. Denver couldn’t force turnovers last year and it haunted the team. The defense needs to get those numbers into the positive.
A great place to start is the horrendous Jets. If the Broncos dominate for 60 minutes, limit New York to nothing and create turnovers, it’s another step toward an elite defense.
The talk has been here since the spring.
The time for talk is over.
It’s time for the Broncos to again possess a defense that we can call “elite.”
Oct 5, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Arizona Cardinal running back Andre Ellington (38) runs the ball during the first half against the Denver Broncos s at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports