The strength of the Broncos defense is up front. Von Miller, the 2011 defensive rookie of the year, is healthy and ready to wreak havoc at strong-side linebacker. In his first season in the NFL, Miller recorded 64 tackles, 50 of them solo, along with 11.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
On the right side, Elvis Dumervil's recent off-field issue is indeed a concern. However, he is a commanding pass rusher when on the field, and definitely a positive for the Broncos defense.
That being said, the Broncos have their share of weak spots on defense that could hinder both an AFC division title and a run at the Super Bowl. Here's a look at those weaknesses, and what Denver is attempting to do to fix them.
The Broncos were awful against the run in 2011, ranking 22nd in the league. They managed to give up an average of 126.3 yards per game.
Denver is hoping that Ty Warren's return from injury at defensive tackle, as well as the addition of second-round pick Derek Wolfe, will breathe new life into the anemic run defense.
The Broncos also acquired former University of Colorado free agent Justin Bannan to come in and hopefully help hold the line.
Williams hurts the defense without even stepping onto the field. He is facing a six game suspension to start the season for violating the league's substance abuse policy. He is also scheduled to appear in court in August for a DUI arrest from November, 2010. If convicted he could serve jail time and potentially tack on another four games to his suspension.
Wesley Woodyard is slotted to take over for Williams while he is serving that suspension. Woodyard has been a great special teams guy, but struggled at the linebacker position last season. Even upon Williams' return, we could still see the same lackluster playmaking and inconsistencies we've seen thus far.
Depending on what happens at training camp, Williams could be a non-issue. The Broncos front office may decide to cut ties with the linebacker; deciding he's not worth all the trouble and drama.
As mentioned above, there are off-field issues that could hinder the seasons of multiple starters. The potential loss of Elvis Dumervil would be a tough blow to the right side, which is already going to be without D.J Williams for a minimum of six games.
The safety positions lack depth as well. Quinton Carter and free agent pick-up Mike Adams should be named the starters at strong and free safety respectively at the start of the season. If one of them underperforms or gets injured, the Broncos don't really have the talent to replace them.
The Broncos' defense should outperform last year's squad. However, there are weaknesses that were not entirely addressed during the off-season that could potentially hinder their playoff hopes. Training camp should give us a better idea of how new defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio's defense will pan out.
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