After finishing the 2011 season 8-8, the Denver Broncos are hoping to improve their defensive line and record in 2012. With new defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio at the helm and Von Miller coming off his Defensive Rookie of the Year season, the defense is pushing closer to returning to the Orange Crush days.
But, there are a few flaws the Denver Broncos need to fix before becoming an elite defensive threat. Let's take a look at the most important flaws the Broncos need to fix ASAP.
The Denver Broncos' biggest problem is defensive tackle and who they can rely on. Last year the Broncos finished in the bottom third against the run and used the offseason to hopefully improve that area.
The Broncos signed rookie Derek Wolfe in the 2012 NFL Draft. Wolfe was a three-year starter at the University of Cincinnati, where he recorded 162 tackles, 37 tackles for a loss and 19.5 sacks in 44 games. The Broncos also added Justin Bannan from the St. Louis Rams in free agency. Both men will join veterans Ty Warren and Kevin Vickerson.
The big question is if the Broncos should rely on a rookie to improve defense against the run. If he gets reps at training camps like he's hoping and puts up numbers similar to his time at University of Cincinnati, he could make an immediate impact and help the Broncos defense improve in 2012.
The cornerback position will be a major issue in 2012 and will be exposed in a pass-heavy offense under Peyton Manning if flaws aren't fixed ASAP.
Thompson adds youth (he's 25) to the secondary and speed in the cornerback position that will be needed to stop the opposition. He played in 13 games as a rookie in 2010, recording two interceptions, 10 tackles, four passes defended and one fumble recovery. He also had eight special-teams tackles and three punt returns. Prior to being drafted by the Broncos, Thompson was first-team All-Pacific 10 Conference and was his team's Most Valuable Defensive Back while playing at the University of California.
Thompson is a promising, young talent who is competing to be Champ Bailey's successor. He was spectacular in special teams in his first two seasons, but was limited to reps in the cornerback position after tearing his Achilles tendon in the final preseason game last year.
If Thompson has made a full recovery and can return to his pre-injury form, he would be a great asset to the Broncos' defense. His numbers were spectacular as a rookie and learning and growing under Peyton Manning would only help his maturity and skills.
e.g. 'Chicago Blackhawks', 'Chicago Cubs'
After a neck injury forced Brian Dawkins to retire and Andre Goodman was released, the Denver Broncos looked to add youth to play alongside 11-time Pro Bowler, Champ Bailey. They found that youth in Mike Adams, Tracy Porter, Drayton Florence, Omar Bolden and Chris Harris.
The Broncos signed Adams in March and he will take over Dawkins' position and be responsible for getting the secondary lined up. This move allows Quinton Carter to transition to his more natural strong safety position. Carter previously played free safety after taking Rahim Moore's starting position last October, finishing with interceptions in both playoff games last season.
Porter and Florence were added to the secondary to compete with Bailey as cornerbacks. In 43 games, Porter recorded 227 tackles, seven interceptions, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. At 25 years old, Porter adds youth to a Denver secondary that was quickly aging under Bailey and Dawkins. Florence, a 10-year veteran, was picked up after the Bills released him following the 2011 season. Florence started in 45 games in the past three years and has a career 17 interceptions. Florence signed a two-year deal, saying a factor of his signing was his familiarity with new defensive coordinator, Jack Del Rio. Del Rio was the head coach at Jacksonville when Florence played there.
The Broncos drafted Omar Bolden in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL draft from Arizona State. Bolden is expected to be Bailey's successor either this season or next. Head coach, John Fox, raved that Bolden "definitely looked like a first-round type of talent in our mini-camp." Bolden suffered ACL injuries in 2009 and last spring before the 2011 season. If he can stay healthy, he could make a youthful impact in the secondary.
Chris Harris was an undrafted rookie last year who took over the nickel back position by Week 7 and finished the 2011 season as the secondary's best tackler. Adding his youth and productivity to the secondary would help the Broncos' defense get back to the Orange Crush glory days.
Von Miller put up impressive numbers in 2011 and won Defensive Rookie of the Year, but he still made mental mistakes that need to be corrected in order for the defense to improve in 2012.
Miller is an aggressive player and opposing offenses used that against him week after week, running plays past him as he came up the field or receivers sneaked past him. His build and speed was great, but he took a lot of false steps at the snap and couldn't recover quick enough.
Last season, his development as a rookie was stunted because of the NFL lockout. This offseason, Miller has rehabbed both his broken right thumb and his mental mistakes. At the age of 23, Miller is still learning and should mature quickly under the leadership of Peyton Manning, Champ Bailey and other NFL veterans currently on the Denver Broncos roster.
Miller led the Broncos with 11.5 sacks last year and if he corrects his mental mistakes, I see those numbers increasing substantially, especially if he's healthy. Von Miller could be voted Best Defensive Player of the Year and lead the Orange Crush defense in 2012 if he corrects his mistakes ASAP.