Broncos need much more from Eyioma Uwazurike in year two

Nov 27, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold (14)
Nov 27, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold (14) / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos, despite missing the playoffs for the past seven years, have still fielded a top-flight defense for many years.

Heading into the 2023 season, the Broncos still have two of the best at their respective positions, Justin Simmons and Patrick Surtain, in the secondary. Linebackers Josey Jewell and Alex Singleton will both be back and the defensive front is led by D.J. Jones and free-agent acquisition Zach Allen.

But the team will need much more than that to compete, and one of the spots where there will be a significant opportunity will be on the defensive line. Some believe that the Broncos are solid at that unit but I tend to disagree, and here's why: Beyond Jones, Allen and Mike Purcell, there is nothing in the way of proven commodities.

Jonathan Harris: 16 career games, 38 career tackles

Jordan Jackson: Has yet to appear in a regular-season game

Matt Henningsen: 17 career games, 21 career tackles, one sack

Eyioma Uwazurike: 8 career games, 17 career tackles

Elijah Garcia: 2 career games, 1 career tackle

As you can see, the Broncos have a lot of young players there who may have some potential, but many of them may be nothing more than practice squad guys. The one name that should stand out is that of Uwazurike, last year's fourth-round pick.

But as a rookie, Uwazurike was extremely quiet. In fact, he fell behind sixth-round pick Matt Henningsen in the pecking order. Uwazurike played on just 14 percent of the team's defensive snaps while Henningsen was out there for 20 percent, according to Pro Football Reference.

In 2023, Uwazurike needs to step up and be out on the field far more and show the team why he was taken with a fourth-round pick, a choice that seemed like terrific value when it was made.

In college at Iowa State, he collected 176 total tackles and 15 sacks in 55 games with the Cyclones. He also has impressive size for a guy who played on the interior of the defensive line in college at 6-foot-6. Once he can make full use of that size and length and his position, he can be a force in the league.

Allen and Jones are two of the presumed starters on the defensive line, but the team is going to need a third guy to step up and take that other spot. Uwazurike needs to be that guy because there is no reason he can't beat out all of the names mentioned above.

If the team is not confident that he can do that, another defensive lineman needs to be chosen in the upcoming draft at the end of this month.

Next. Broncos could need long-term options at these five spots. dark