Earlier this month, the stats experts at Pro Football Focus posted a very interesting article involving recently-retired Denver Broncos safety Brian Dawkins, stating that he was the most effective pass-rusher in the league from the cornerback and safety positions in 2011.
As a 37-year-old in 2011, Dawkins posted 51 tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble in 14 starts. Dawkins missed time in most games with minor injuries, but was still an effective safety for Denver in 2011.
Fill-ins for Dawkins included David Bruton, Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter during these periods. Carter was the only effective safety, although he was only shifted over to cover for Dawkins' absence and had been starting opposite Dawkins for most of the season.
Denver was reportedly interested in re-signing Dawkins if his health checked out, but Dawkins instead chose to retire after a fantastic 16-year career.
Dawkins registered 13 quarterback pressures along with three sacks in 2011, second only to New Orleans Saints safety Roman Harper with 17 pressures. However, Dawkins was rated with the highest PRP rating, or Pass Rushing Productivity, edging out former Washington Redskins and current New York Jets safety LaRon Landry. In comparison, Harper was ranked as the 15th-most effective in PRP.
What could this mean for Denver in 2012?
Dawkins was the only Denver player to consistently pass-rush in 2011, let alone consistently pressure the quarterback. Denver may need to get projected starters Carter and the recently-acquired Mike Adams to chip in on the pass-rush to make up for Dawkins' absence.
If this can't be done, as Adams is more of a coverage safety to begin with and Carter is still developing, Denver could be in trouble getting to the quarterback.
A pass-rush from the position could be less needed with a bolstered cornerback corps, as Denver added via free agency Tracy Porter and Drayton Florence while drafting rookie Omar Bolden and signing undrafted free agent Coryell Judie.
If there is still a void to be filled, it is possible the front seven could put enough pressure on the quarterback, with returning starters Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller spearheading the attack. Second-rounder Derek Wolfe could surprise and offer a pass-rush from the defensive tackle role as well.
One thing that is for certain is Brian Dawkins will be sorely missed by Denver in 2012.