Can Denver Broncos' New Faces on Defense Hang with Top Passing Teams in '12?

Jason Muckley@@jamuckleySenior Analyst IIMay 9, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 12:  Tracy Porter has the cast of 'Family Guy' shaved into his head for the game against the St. Louis Rams of the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome on December 12, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The New England Patriots last season were the Denver Broncos' Kryptonite. And it was disgusting.

Watching Tom Brady transition the offense into a hurry-up offense and methodically pick apart the defense, passing to his huge tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Dumping the ball to the law firm, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, for huge yards in the middle of the field.

The Patriots were one of four teams to put up 40 points or more on the Broncos last year. They did it twice, and the second game hurt the most, as it knocked Denver out of the playoffs. The Broncos draw the Patriots in a rematch from last year's divisional playoff game in Week 5 on the road in Foxboro.

It’s no wonder that the Broncos front office wasn’t content with just acquiring Tracy Porter at cornerback when news surfaced about their interest in the former Eagle, Asante Samuel. Ultimately, his price was too high for the Broncos.

The best teams in the league are the greatest passing teams. The Broncos hope that they can join the elite group in the NFL after adding future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning. However, this season, the Broncos have the second-hardest schedule based on last year’s records in the league, only behind last year’s Super Bowl Champions, the New York Giants.

The addition of Tracy Porter on the outside to go alongside Champ Bailey was likely (outside of Peyton Manning) the best pickup the Broncos made in free agency.

Another great add for the Broncos was former Cleveland Browns safety Mike Adams. Adams is a seasoned veteran for a young defensive team, especially at safety.

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 24:  Mike Adams #20 of the Cleveland Browns is called for interference against Torrey Smith #82 the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on December 24. 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens lead the Browns 17-00 at the half. (P
Larry French/Getty Images

In order to compete next year, safety is one of the weakest links that has to improve. Second-year players Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter must improve compared to their rookie campaigns.

Rahim Moore specifically had a rough rookie year. He started the season as the starting free safety with Brian Dawkins at strong safety. He didn’t last all season, getting benched in Week 8 after his play regressed early on.

He was out for four games until Brian Dawkins went down with an injury, and out of necessity, Moore was re-inserted into the lineup.

Carter did well in relief of Moore, but inconsistency marked his season as well. Oftentimes, both Moore and Carter looked lost on defense, over-matched by polished quarterback-receiver tandems that lit up the scoreboard repeatedly.

Despite their defensive struggles last season, the Broncos didn’t do as much on defense in terms of draft picks in the 2012 NFL draft. Their first pick went to improve the defensive line when they selected Derek Wolfe, who projects to be a defensive tackle. Some believe that he could have been available later in the draft.

The Broncos also added Malik Jackson, a defensive end who will compete with Robert Ayers for the end spot opposite of Elvis Dumervil. The final pick of the 2012 draft was Danny Trevathan, a linebacker who may compete for the weak-side linebacker spot that could be vacated by D.J. Williams if the six-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs is upheld.

For a team embracing a “win now” mantra, the Denver Broncos used a prime draft pick on their “quarterback of the future,” Brock Osweiler out of Arizona State.

The Broncos defense looks like it has made a few moves to improve, but there remain lots of question marks that the Broncos are hoping will work themselves out as they go into training camp.

They are hoping Ty Warren, the beast in the middle, will be 100 percent before the start of the season after suffering a season-ending triceps tear last offseason. They hope that Kevin Vickerson would be able to go on day one as well alongside Warren.

Listed on the Broncos roster on, their newest draft pick in Derek Wolfe isn’t even listed as a defensive tackle yet. Instead, he has been listed as a generic defensive lineman. The outcome of Williams’ court filing against the NFL for his impending PED suspension is another question that hangs in the balance as well.

Realistically, the Broncos defense has improved, but will they be ready to face the second-hardest schedule in the NFL next year?

Only time will tell.