2012 Denver Broncos: The Return of the Famous Orange Crush

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2012 Denver Broncos: The Return of the Famous Orange Crush
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Bronco Nation has spoken, and they want the famous Orange Crush back. 

In 2011, the Denver Broncos say they received 2,000 emails from fans across all 50 states as well as 32 countries, including Azerbaijan, South Korea, and Tanzania.  All addressed the fans' collective desire to bring back the beautiful Bronco orange as the team’s home jersey color.  In addition, 10,000 people signed a petition requesting the very same.

It goes without saying, this season the Broncos will be outfitted in the famous bright orange. Moreover, with the team’s defense building confidence last year, as well as adding a number of terrific players in the offseason, Denver should be looking foreword to the return of the infamous “Orange Crush” defense.

Throughout the late '70s and early '80s, as the team finally emerged from the depths of the NFL, the Broncos defense ranked among the very best.  Putting up similar numbers to the famous Steel Curtain in Pittsburgh as well as the Doomsday defense of Dallas, the Orange Crush were feared throughout the NFL.

Led by linebackers Randy Grandishar, Tom Jackson, Joe Rizzo and Bob Swenson, the Orange Crush took Denver by storm, built a championship-caliber team in the young town and developed a foundation for the team’s loyal fan base today.

In 1977, the defense lead the Broncos to their first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history and created mass hysteria in Denver.  With the much improved defense this year, as well as a rough overall record the last few seasons, it appears that 2012 could be the year the Orange Crush phenomena returns to Denver and puts the team back on the NFL’s radar.

Unlike the current Broncos defense, the Orange Crush absolutely dominated against the run, ranking first in the ’77 season.  However, the game has changed quite a bit in the 30-plus years since the Orange Crush craze took Denver by storm. 

Randy Gradishar

It is constantly repeated these days that the NFL is a quarterback driven league, and it is true.  However, during the '70s and '80s, the running game reigned supreme. Consequently, where the Orange Crush of old dominated the trenches, the second coming shall control the air.   

With players like Von Miller, Elvis Dumervil, Robert Ayers and D.J. Williams coming off the edge, the Broncos' pass rush should be amongst the very best this season. Furthermore, signing Mike Adams, Tracy Porter and Drayton Florence to play alongside an already talented group of Champ Bailey, Chris Harris, Quinton Carter and Rahim Moore, will lock down the secondary.

In addition, John Fox brought over his old defensive coordinator from the Carolina Panthers, former Jaguars head coach, and defensive mastermind, Jack Del Rio. The man not only played 11 very successful seasons as a linebacker in the NFL, but he also helped design some of the best defenses in recent memory.

He was the linebacker coach for the Ravens in 1999 and 2000, the defensive coordinator for Carolina in 2002-03, as well as the head coach in Jacksonville when they had one of the league's best defenses from 2003-2007. 

There is no doubt Del Rio will improve the defense as well as bring an aggressive and physical attitude, however, it is the vast improvement on offense that should ultimately take this defense to the top.  

While landing the unrivaled Peyton Manning will undoubtedly improve the Bronco’s offense, it should seal the Broncos defense as one of the best in the league as well. Not only do they have to face Manning on a daily basis in practice, but also the defense will likely be playing with a lead in most games.

Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

This allows the team’s premier edge rushes to pin their ears back and focus almost entirely on blitzing a quarterback that will be forced to throw in order to make up ground, or at the very least keep up with Manning.  With such a talented secondary, this high-pressure style of play forces tons of turnovers and puts constant stress on the opposing offense.  

Despite the obvious differences between the Orange Crush Defense and the current Broncos defense, there are still a number of similarities. 

Linebacker Randy Gradishar, who was drafted No. 14 overall, out of perennial powerhouse Ohio State, was a tenacious tackler who was never out of position and consequently led the team in tackles almost every year.  While he was not the most vocal guy on the team, he certainly showed his ability and leadership on the field every game.

Gradishar reminds me of D.J. Williams. While, Williams has been moved all over the field from the strong-side, to the weak-side, from weak-side, to the middle, then back to the strong-side.  Wherever he plays, the guy is a terrific tackler who never seems to be out of position. 

Williams was also drafted by the Broncos, out of a then dynasty University of Miami, with the No. 17 overall pick, and he looks to have a similarly long and productive career without receiving much recognition. Williams has never made a Pro Bowl, and Gradishar is yet to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Though the Orange Crush’s All-Pro defensive end Lyle Alzado was a pretty big guy, standing 6’3’’, 255 pounds in his day, he reminds me of Elvis Dumervil, who stands only 5’11’’, 250, and with his long arms plays like he’s 6’3’’.  Both were late-round draftees, and both got after the quarterback. 

Though, Dumervil has yet to win a defensive player of the year award as Lyle Alzado did in 1977. Alzado then lead the Broncos to the ‘77 Super Bowl.  Who knows, this could be the year of the Inevitable Doomerville.  Where Elvis replaces Dwight Freeney as not only one of the best edge-rushers in the league, but also Peyton Manning’s biggest fan. 

Cornerback Louis “Lou-dini” Wright was a cornerstone of the Orange Crush defense and quite simply, is the old school Champ Bailey.  Wright was stupid fast, excelling in track as well as football in college, where he ran a 9.6 100-yard dash.  He was selected to five Pro Bowls in his day, and was known as one of the best cover as well as run supporting cornerbacks in the league.  Sound familiar? 

I could say all the same about Champ. However, I would have to add the facts that Champ has been to a position-record 11 Pro Bowls and has absolutely shut down half of the field or the other team's best receiver, or both, for what will be 13 years.  

Champ is undoubtedly one of the best corners ever and will be not only the face but the heart of the new Orange Crush defense.  

Everyone in Denver is excited about this upcoming season, and they should be as the Orange Crush has returned.  With some of the best fans in all the country, Orange will certainly be in style in Denver come fall, and Mile High will rumble like it has not in far too long.       

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