The Denver Broncos are looking great, but there are aspects they can improve on.
Denver is last in passing defense, giving up 338 yards per game, and it has surrendered at least 19 points in every game. It has been engaged in many high-scoring battles due to its offense, which has scored 35 or more points in every game, and it is averaging nearly 50 per game. Consequently, it is 6-0.
Still, if the Broncos want to keep winning, their defense will have to step up. The secondary has been abysmal, and tight ends have consistently gashed them. Against Denver in Week 5, Dallas' Tony Romo threw for 506 yards.
Denver won that game because of Peyton Manning's mastery, Knowshon Moreno's scoring ability (he has an incredible, league-leading seven touchdowns so far) and the wide receivers' dominance. Denver is a phenomenal offensive team, and it doesn't need any upgrades in that regard.
But while the offense has been flawless, the same can't be said about the defense.
That's largely because of the absences of Von Miller and Champ Bailey, two incredible, indispensable players who completely change Denver's defense. Miller finished third in the league with 18.5 sacks last year, and he was consistently dominant. Bailey also was, giving up just one touchdown in the regular season.
Miller will return in Week 7, and his return will change everything. Denver's pass rush has been mediocre so far, as its sack total (17) completely belies its production. Robert Ayers and Shaun Phillips have combined for 10 sacks (and Ayers has even missed a game), but on some plays, there has been no pass rush at all.
When Miller comes back, he will change that. He will hit and sack quarterbacks, forcing them to throw quickly. This could help the secondary stay fresh and make plays, as hurried throws often lead to turnovers.
In other words, Miller's return will completely transform the defense, which ranked second in total defense last year.
Bailey won't make as great of an impact, but his leadership and shutdown ability will definitely help. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who is a physical beast but lacks the cover skills required to guard star receivers, can go back to shutting down mediocre receivers, and backup Tony Carter can stay on the bench.
Carter has eight passes defended and has made an impact on the basic stat sheet, but, in reality, he has had a very poor year. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), he has graded as the worst defensive back on the team.
So, getting him off the field and allowing Denver to utilize him as a backup will be helpful. This should limit big plays, which have killed Denver.
It should also make a monumental impact on the team.
Still, even with these players coming back and Ayers, Chris Harris and Wesley Woodyard returning to full strength, there are concerns about the defense. Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post addressed the possibility of addressing those concerns with a trade for Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Jason Babin.
Babin registered a phenomenal 18 sacks in 2011, but he was cut by the Eagles in 2012. He has two sacks thus far, but he hasn't been anywhere near as effective as he was in 2011.
That would make a trade for the aging defensive end seem odd. Denver already has a solid veteran rusher in Shaun Phillips, who has 5.5 sacks so far. Adding Babin would help with leadership, but it might not make a huge difference in production.
With Robert Ayers having a career year, breakout rusher Malik Jackson shining with three sacks in his last two games and Derek Wolfe still boasting the potential to make an impact, Denver appears to be fine without Babin. It has plenty of depth at defensive end, and, with Miller returning, the pass rush should be fine.
Still, Denver's pass defense ranks last in the NFL, and it needs more than just Bailey. He will help by locking down top receivers, which will help the secondary. However, even with Bailey in Week 6, the Broncos were immune to big plays. To prevent those, Denver should upgrade its secondary.
Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd could be a good fit, as he could add playmaking ability and experience to the secondary. The impending free agent likely wouldn't re-sign with Denver if he were traded, but he could be a good rental.
Denver doesn't need to add Byrd or another talented safety as capable players Rahim Moore, Duke Ihenacho and Mike Adams currently man the position. However, if the defense doesn't show significant improvement, a trade to bolster it might be required.
And Byrd could be the perfect player.
Chemistry-wise, there are ample concerns, but his production on the field has been and will be nothing short of spectacular. He intercepted an incredible nine passes in his first season, and he has accumulated at least 76 tackles in each full year since 2009 (his rookie year).
Denver needs to limit tight ends, and Byrd could upgrade it in that regard. The Broncos could also add a cover linebacker, but with Miller, Wesley Woodyard and Danny Trevathan, who has sparkled with three interceptions, Denver doesn't appear to have many problems there.
With Byrd, the same could be said about the safeties. Denver could limit the dreaded big plays while coming up with more turnovers. The team has only forced 10 turnovers on the year, and only one has come from a safety (Moore has one interception).
If the Broncos are willing to overlook the potential chemistry issues and the short-term commitment, they could work out a deal with the Bills. That would significantly upgrade the secondary and add one more big name to Mile High City.
And in the end, that one name could make all the difference.
The Broncos look invincible, but they need some help on defense. To stop the potent passing attacks they will face later in the season and in the postseason, a secondary upgrade could be necessary.
If Denver leaves the defense alone, it will likely be fine winning high-scoring battles. It doesn't desperately need a defensive upgrade with Miller and Bailey returning, but adding some extra talent couldn't hurt.
The pass rush shouldn't be tampered with, but the coverage has been abysmal thus far. Adding Byrd and another safety, like Mike Mitchell, or even another corner (if injury comes up, or if Rodgers-Cromartie starts struggling), like DeAngelo Hall, would be great for the team.
Because even if it's not best for the long-term future of the team, it could make all the difference this season.