(This is the 2nd part of the following article)
The 2008 Denver Broncos Defense was one of the hardest squads to watch, in my time. It was like watching Corey Dillon breaking the single game rushing record (278 yards Bengals vs. Broncos, 2000) 16 times.
This defense couldn’t have stopped the run if William "The Refrigerator" Perry was toting the ball.
It was completely demoralizing as a fan to watch the offense score, only to have the defense give up an easy seven.
The Defensive line
I get chills when I look at last years starting four lineman. These players just didn’t work well together at all. Ranking No. 27 overall in rushing yards allowed, this line get’s all of the blame.
John Engelberger was a high-energy guy and a coach’s favorite, but so was Rudy Ruettiger.
He wasn’t big enough to stop the run and wasn’t fast enough to create pressure. Engelberger would have been more suited for a second string role at that point in his career. Engelberger has been released by the Broncos.
Dewayne Robertson was a huge disappointment. I thought that the Broncos really had something there. He was a veteran with injury issues, but I figured he could provide support at the defensive tackle position.
I was wrong. As a backup, I would have been happy with Robertson’s production, but the Broncos shelled out a ton of cash for this guy. He just wasn’t worth the investment. Robertson has been released by the Broncos.
Elvis Dumervil is a passing situation lineman only. He’s a sack master, but struggled against the run and maintaining the corner. He wasn’t big enough to be a 3-4 down lineman, which the Broncos needed.
I look for Dumervil to start in 2009 in the Broncos newly added 3-4 defensive scheme as an outside linebacker. If he can make the switch to linebacker and increase his coverage skills, he will be a huge defensive threat of the corners.
Marcus Thomas was a shining light on the defensive front. In his sophomore season as a Bronco, Thomas tallied 34 total tackles and even caught an interception for 11 yards. As a fourth-round choice the Broncos couldn’t have been happier with his production.
As Thomas grows, he will only get better. Yahoo has Thomas slated at the second-string Nose Tackle position, but I just don’t agree with this move.
Thomas should be a starting end in the 3-4 defense and could also vie for the starting Nose Tackle position, although he may be better suited as a back up to the bigger prospects on the roster at this time.
With the front four not holding their blocks or creating pressure, the linebacker squad for the Broncos was put in position all season.
D.J. Williams is one of the top defensive players on this team and the AFC, in my opinion. If this squad was as popular as the Baltimore Ravens squad, he would be considered a perennial pro bowler.
Williams could only do so much to help out the defense, and injuries hampered him last season, making his production minimal. I look for Williams to have a career year in this revamped defense. He’s had 100-tackle seasons before and I believe he will return to dominance.
Nate Webster is all heart and half the skills. I love Webster as a back up linebacker, but as a starter, he just lacked the concentration to shut down plays. Flying around the field will only tire you out in the long run—and as we saw last year, isn’t very productive either. Webster has been released by the Broncos.
Boss Bailey, brother of NFL icon Champ Bailey, has all of the upside to become a star, but he just can’t stay healthy enough to contribute on a consistent basis.
Out of five professional season, Bailey has played only two 16-game seasons. Although his production on the field is great, you cannot help your team if you are not playing.
Hopefully the injury bug is gone from Boss’s life, and he can become the player that we all hope he is. Look for Boss Bailey to be an excellent coverage inside linebacker alongside DJ Williams in this year’s 3-4 defense.
The Defensive Backs
Lead by Champ Bailey, this squad had a lot of promise before the season started. Most great defensive backs start with consistent quarterback pressure from the defensive line.
Without a consistent pass rush, defensive backs are left on their own playing catch-up. This is exactly what happened last year. In this unfortunate situation, coupled with injuries, you couldn’t expect this squad to do any better.
Champ Bailey had a bad season last year. Injuries held him to 9 games for the season. Although his production was quite good for those nine games, it was widely speculated that he wasn’t 100% throughout the season.
If the new defense can create significant pressure on the quarterback this year, Champ will be a shutdown corner as usual. At 100 percent health, Champ is the cornerstone of this defense.
Dre' Bly had a lot of hype coming into the Broncos’ organization. With all of the problems going on with the defense, Bly was unable to live up to the high expectations of the Denver brass.
I don’t believe he was as bad a player as the Denver faithful made him to be. I feel he was too aggressive in coverage, which led to some unneeded scores against him. Bly has been released by the Broncos.
Marlon McCree and Hamza Abdullah were considered average IMHO, and didn’t really add anything to last year’s defense. They were later replaced as starters, due to injuries and ineffective play.
Marlon McCree and Hamza Abdullah have been released by the Broncos.
My opinion of this year’s defense
Head Coach Josh Mcdaniels has been very active this offseason, signing a whole new group of free agents to this team. The free agent signings can be viewed here.
The brunt of the signings was allocated to the defensive side of the ball. Only five true starters remain on the depth chart from last year (Champ Bailey, Boss Bailey, Marcus Thomas, Elvis Dumervil, and DJ Williams.)
The rest are new additions, including the resigning of a few players form last year. Along with the active free agency, the Broncos look to use a completely new defensive formation, opting for the 3-4 defense over the traditional 4-3 defensive scheme.
In my opinion, the additions of Brian Dawkins, Renaldo Hill, Andre Goodman, and Andra Davis are significant upgrades to a weak defense last year.
The Broncos also added a large group of untested defensive lineman through draft free agency that all have great upside. The list of draft free agency players can be viewed here.
As we go into training camp, we can only be optimistic for the Denver Defense. They have new players. a new scheme, and a new coach. When looking at last year’s defense, change is a GOOD thing.
I look for the defense to go from 29th, 27th, 26th, and 30th in NFL defensive ranking to 12-15th overall this year. This defense has the possibility of being really great. Time will only tell how this squad will come together in August.
Below, I have added my predictions of the first two starting teams for the defense:
DLE Marcus Thomas Darrell Reid
NT Ronald Fields Chris Baker
DRE Kenny Peterson Robert Ayers
LOLB Elvis Dumervil Jarvis Moss
LILB D.J. Williams Boss Bailey
RILB Andra Davis Spencer Larsen
ROLB Robert Ayers Wesley Woodyard
LCB Champ Bailey Josh Bell
RCB Andre' Goodman Jack Williams
S Brian Dawkins Vernon Fox
FS Renaldo Hill Josh Barrett
(Part 3 of this series will briefly cover the special teams unit)