Who Will Start for the Broncos in 2009? (Part Two)

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Who Will Start for the Broncos in 2009? (Part Two)
(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

(This is part two of a two-part article. The first part can be found here.)

In remembering the defenses that the Broncos have put out the last couple of years, I know it's hard to get really excited about the "new changes" to the Defense. 

However, as a member of Bronco Nation, I can truthfully say that this year's changes have to get you excited about the upcoming season!

It all starts up front for a defense.  Without solid line play, the Broncos have no chance at stopping opposing offenses.  On the other hand, a dominant defensive line will send the Broncos to the playoffs this year.

 

Defensive Tackle

The Broncos have eight defensive tackles on their roster as of now: Matthias Askew, Chris Baker, Nic Clemons, Ronald Fields, J'Vonne Parker, Kenny Peterson, Carlton Powell, and Marcus Thomas.

For a 3-4 defense to be successful, the Broncos need three big bodies on the defensive line, which turns large defensive tackles (310-plus lbs.) into nose tackles and regular-size defensive tackles (290-plus lbs.) into defensive ends. 

Weighing in at 315, 325, and 326, respectively, Fields, Parker, and Baker are the only defense tackles that can be viewed as true nose tackles. 

Fields is a five-year veteran, and has the best chance at winning the starting nose tackle spot at this time. He has the size and strength to be a stout nose tackle in the NFL, but one has to wonder why San Fransisco let him go so easily. 

Parker has ideal size and strength, but has little experience in the NFL. He's a journeyman defensive tackle, and will be a good backup in the nose tackle rotation for Denver.

Baker will be the talk of camp this year.  The Broncos signed him out of college as an unrestricted free agent, which will turn out to be a very good value as the season progresses.  

Baker was severed from the Penn State football program for accepting money for work he didn't do. Regardless of his past indiscretions, the kid has talent—enough talent that he could be the starting nose tackle when September rolls around. 

The nose tackle position is pretty much in the air, because there are so many unknowns trying out this summer.

Out of the other five defensive tackle prospects, Peterson and Thomas should be the starting defensive ends for the 3-4 defense.  All of the other tackles are unproven players that have a chance to make the squad. 

Again, the defensive end position is up in the air, especially since this would be a position change for these players, and because there are five more defensive end prospects on the roster.

 

Defensive Ends

Like the defensive tackles, the defensive end prospects are career backups, or rookies with limited playing experience on the line. The defensive end prospects are as follows:  Tim Crowder, Rulon Davis, Ryan McBean, and Everette Pedescleaux. 

Crowder has the most experience and upside, but at 275 lbs, he lacks the size to be a 3-4 line player.  If Crowder comes to training camp at 285, then he would be a great rotation player on the line.

McBean has ideal size for a defensive end in the 3-4, but not a lot of experience.  It will be interesting to see what he brings to the table at camp.

The last two prospects were just signed as rookie free agents and have no experience in the NFL. However, they are intriguing players with possible upside.

Pedescleaux is my favorite of the two to start.  At 6'6" inches and 305 lbs, he could be a beast on the end.  With his height, he can stand to gain 20-30 lbs in a professional training program. This could be our next starting nose tackle!

Davis is a Marine. Enough said. These guys are considered tough at 200 lbs.  At 281 lbs, I'd drop my gun and pray this man didn't eat me.  Davis is also, 6'5" inches tall, so like  Pedescleaux, he could stand to gain 20 lbs.

These two rookies could find themselves starting in the middle of this season.

 

Defensive End/Linebackers Hybrids

Now this is the exciting part of the off-season! The hybrid players are guys that were originally slotted as pass rushing ends in a 4-3 defensive scheme, but have the ability to play the outside linebacker position in a 3-4 defensive scheme. 

Starting a hybrid instead of a linebacker gives a defense a stout pass-rushing end and better run support off of the edges. The problem these players run into is that they don't have the coverage skills it takes to defend against the pass. 

The hybrid ends on the Broncos roster are as follows: Robert Ayers, Elvis Dumervil, Jarvis Moss, Darrell Reid.

Ayers is a stand out 3-4 lineman from the University of Tennessee.  He was the No. 18 overall draft choice in the 2009 draft, and looks to start at outside linebacker for the Broncos this year.

This guy is a gamer. He's quick, strong, and intelligent. He has all of the ability to be a star in this league. Hopefully he pans out.

Dumervil is the Broncos resident sack master.  If you need someone to hit the quarterback, he's your man. I envision Dumervil as starting opposite of Ayers at outside linebacker. 

As long as his coverage skills improve, Dunmervil should be a Pro Bowler at this position.

Moss could easily fight for a starting position as an outside linebacker. However, to this point in his career, he hasn't shown the talent that got him drafted out of Florida three years ago.  This could possibly be scenario that Moss has been waiting for. If Moss comes to camp swinging, there is going to be a heck of a lot of competition for the hybrid spot this summer.

Reid is a special teams stand out. I'm not really sold on him being a starter. He's kind of a tweener at 288 lbs—too big to be an outside linebacker, too small to be a defensive end.  It's quite possible that he may crack the 53-man roster, but as of now, I'm not holding my breath.


Linebackers

The Broncos have 11 linebackers coming to camp this summer. They are as follows: Boss Bailey, Andra Davis, Louis Green, Nick Greisen, Mario Haggan, Braxton Kelley, Lee Robinson, Jeff Schweiger, D.J. Williams, Wesley Woodyard, and Spencer Larsen. 

A lot of these player's futures will be based on how strong the hybrid players above come out in training camp. If the hybrids don't pan out, there will be four starting spots open for these linebacker prospects to compete for.

If the hybrid players do pan out, then the inside linebacker positions are the only starting jobs available. Davis and Williams will be locks at these positions. 

These two players will be a huge force in the middle for this defense. Both are run-stuffers, and both can blitz the quarterback with agility and speed. However, if the right outside linebacker spot is open, then I will expect Williams to play in that spot, since it is his natural position.

The other veteran linebackers—Bailey, Green, Greisen, Haggan, Woodyard, and Larsen—all have the opportunity and ability to start or be considered in the rotation on this defense.  At this point, the linebacker position will be figured out in training camp.  There are no other clear-cut starters.

Schweiger, Kelley, and Robinson are all rookies; therefore, I have nothing really to go on for these players.

Schweiger is an interesting prospect because of his size.  At 6'5" and 276 lbs., he has the physical attributes to be another hybrid linebacker. He may be a diamond in the rough who could see playing time with the Broncos in the future.

 

Cornerbacks

The Broncos have eight cornerbacks on their roster as of now, but they most likely are only competing for the nickel and backup roles. 

They are as follows: Champ Bailey, Joshua Bell, Tony Carter, Andre' Goodman, D.J. Johnson, Rashod Moulton, Alphonso Smith, and Jack Williams.

Bailey and Goodman are the veterans and starting cornerbacks for the Broncos at this time.  They should be the starters, barring an incredible camp by Smith, a rookie. 

Smith should be the starting nickel back, due to his tremendous play in a college and the fact that they Broncos traded a future No. 1 draft pick for him in this years draft. I'm fairly confident that he will pan out and become a starter for this team. His highlight reels and interviews were excellent. 

All of the other prospects do have a chance to be starters, but it just isn't likely. They will most likely end up being depth players, or trying to crack a starting role on special teams. 

 

Safeties

The safety positions are all but taken care of, due to the signing of free agent juggernaut Brian Dawkins and veteran Renaldo Hill. The safety prospects are as follows: Josh Barrett, David Bruton, Brian Dawkins, Vernon Fox, Renaldo Hill, Herana-Daze Jones, Darcel McBath.

I am 100 percent sure that Brian Dawkins will be the starting strong safety.  Renaldo Hill is an above-average free safety, and should be the starter this year. 

I believe that Barrett has the talent to start in this league and should be a solid backup this year.  The Broncos may look at putting him at strong safety as well in the future.

McBath is another safety of the future and may end up at the backup spot to Renaldo Hill at free safety.

Bruton, Jones, and Fox should start on special teams. Bruton could break the starting lineup in the future through his special teams play. 

 

Below are my two starting scenario predictions on defense for the 2009 Denver Broncos:

DLE  Marcus Thomas
NT   Chris baker
DRE  Kenny Peterson
LOLB Robert Ayers, Jarvis Moss
LILB  Andra Davis
RILB  DJ Williams
ROLB Elvis Dumervil, Jarvis Moss
CB1  Champ Bailey
CB2  Andre' Goodman
CB3  Alphonso Smith
SS   Brian Dawkins, Josh Barrett
FS   Renaldo Hill, Darcel McBath

Or

DLE  Marcus Thomas
NT   Chris baker
DRE  Kenny Peterson
LOLB Robert Ayers, Elvis Dumervil, Jarvis Moss
LILB  Andra Davis, Boss Bailey
RILB  Spencer Larsen, Boss Bailey
ROLB D.J. Williams, Elvis Dumervil, Jarvis Moss
CB1  Champ Bailey
CB2  Andre' Goodman
CB3  Alphonso Smith
SS   Brian Dawkins, Josh Barrett
FS   Renaldo Hill, Darcel McBath

 

 

 

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