PFF ranked their defensive lines ahead of the 2023 NFL season, and the Denver Broncos' unit got a shockingly low mark from them. I did have some questions about the defensive line heading into the offseason, but I do feel a lot better now about the unit than I did a few months ago.
The departed Dre'Mont Jones, a rising star along the DL, was replaced in free agency by Zach Allen, a player who is on the same level as Jones. Denver didn't lose or gain anything necessarily by swapping Jones for Allen.
What I will say about Allen is that he's gotten better each year in the NFL, and in each year he's played for Vance Joseph, so perhaps year five is a true breakout year for the young player. DJ Jones is obviously back in the middle as the best run-stuffer in the NFL. He's not too much of a threat as an interior rusher, but that's not what he excels at and what he was signed to do.
His run-stuffing ability is elite, and that's what he's going to continue doing for the Broncos. The last DL spot was a bit of an unknown, with second-year player Matt Henningsen likely occupying that spot, but the injury to Baron Browning prompted Denver to sign Frank Clark, who is now expected to start along the defensive line.
The projected DL starters of Allen, Jones, and Clark is a really solid unit, and I don't think there are a ton of teams who boast a stronger interior defensive line than the Broncos. PFF ranked the defensive lines in the NFL ahead of the 2023 season, and the Denver Broncos somehow came in all the way down at 28th.
Wow. I was shocked to see Denver this low. Here's what they had to say about the unit:
"The expensive signing of interior defender Zach Allen and the late addition of edge defender Frank Clark suggest that the Broncos were not satisfied with what they had on the defensive line, but it is questionable whether these two moves will significantly improve the unit.- Zoltan Buday
Allen earned a 72.7 grade in what was a solid season in 2022, but that represented a career-high mark and the first time he's surpassed 60.0. And even though Clark made big plays in the playoffs in recent years, his three highest-graded seasons came between 2016 and 2018."
They didn't even mention anything about the Broncos' pass rushers, even though some of the analyses from other teams considered their pass rusher. Their logic is weird, and I don't agree. Obviously, PFF is going to use their own grades as evidence for their rankings, but we all know that PFF grades can be misleading, and no one really knows how they "grade" players.
Are there really only four teams with worse defensive lines than Denver's? I guess you could argue that Denver's EDGE rushers are a huge question mark, which is fair, but their interior defensive line is as good as any in the NFL. They may not have a true household name on the interior, but that doesn't mean the unit isn't good.
Right now, their projected starters are all above-average players who fall short of the elite tier, and that's perfectly fine. I do think the DL is going to play better than their 28th ranking from PFF in 2023.