Denver Broncos work to patch holes in defense

brian clothierContributor IMay 15, 2009

ENGLEWOOD, CO - MAY 03:  Head coach Josh McDaniels of the Denver Broncos oversees practice during minicamp at the Broncos training facility on May 3, 2009 in Englewood, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The Denver Broncos may not have made a huge splash in the 2009 NFL Draft, but they have drawn from the free agency pool to address some glaring weaknesses.

After an 8-3 start where a win in any of the final five games would have given them a playoff berth, the Broncos pulled on the emergency brake and changed course.

The obvious problems with the 2008 roster were quality at defensive line (particularly nose guard) and safety on the defensive side of the ball. Quarterback (the loss of Cutler was only the tip of the proverbial iceberg) and running back proved to be the trouble spots on offense.

Early in free agency, the Broncos added running backs J.J. Arrington (Cardinals), Correll Buckhalter (Eagles), LaMont Jordan (Patriots), and Darius Walker.

After acquiring Kyle Orton (Bears) in an attempt to have something to show for blowing it with the Pro Bowl selection Jay Cutler, the Broncos moved on Chris Simms (Titans).

Mike Nolan’s 3-4 defense added a few free agents as well. Linebackers Andra Davis (Browns) and Nick Greisen (released by the Ravens) were snatched up with defensive tackles Ronald Fields (49ers) and Darrell Reid (Colts) and defensive backs Brian Dawkins, Andre Goodman, and Renaldo Hill. Finally, defensive end Kenny Peterson was re-signed.

On a team lacking a star to headline its 3-4 defense, the Broncos had hoped to land a defensive lineman in the draft.

Well, with pick No. 18 the Broncos nabbed Robert Ayers. 

The 6’3”, 270-pound Ayers was a run-stopping defensive end for the Tennessee Volunteers who will likely see some outside linebacker duty for Denver as well.

The Broncos addressed their hole at safety with pick No. 48, Darcel McBath and pick No. 114, David Bruton.

Running back Knowshon Moreno was taken with the first of Denver’s two first-round picks (No. 12 overall) and with the first pick in round six, Tom Brandstater was selected (No. 174). 

Moreno will have a real opportunity to make an impact on the Broncos squad.  Brandstater is lucky there are only two other quarterbacks on the team (for now).

Following the draft, the Broncos took a look at the undrafted collegiate free agents.  In all, Denver would sign 15 of these free agents (four WRs, one RB, one TE, two OTs, two CBs, one P, two DEs, one DT, and a LB).

Let's liken this to pickup football games we played as children. Remember the short, chubby, uncoordinated, asthmatic kid whom always got picked last? He was important for one reason … he was No. 8.

Without him, you had a four on three or an all-time quarterback situation on your hands. You let him play strictly because you needed an extra body.

Among the free agent acquisitions was wide receiver David Grimes, who played for head coach Charlie Weis at Notre Dame.

Weis was the offensive coordinator who preceded Josh McDaniels in the Patriots organization. It would be fair to predict the two systems will be comparable.

If we look at the projected depth chart objectively, six of the 11 defensive starters did not play in Denver last year. The offense is a bit more recognizable (aside from Orton and the running backs). 

Most people would agree that the Broncos’ offense was mostly fine before Cutler was run out of town, so there wasn't much to improve on that end. 

The defense was 30th in scoring and 29th overall. Nothing short of an overhaul was going to help.

I believe the Broncos did a fair job addressing their weaknesses efficiently.

Are the holes filled? Yes.

Will it be enough to take the division? I say probably not, but only time will tell.