JACK DEMPSEY/Associated Press
The Broncos made several moves to upgrade the defense this offseason. The move to add free agent defensive end DeMarcus Ware is going to help the defense greatly. His presence on the field will constantly put pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Lining up Von Miller on the opposite side of Ware is an absolute nightmare for opposing offensive coordinators to deal with. Miller has been working hard to return from the knee injury he suffered last year in Week 16 against the Houston Texans. If Miller can get back to full strength quickly, then the Broncos are going to have one of the best pass-rushing duos in the league.
They have two elite-level pass-rushers, but where can additional pass-rushing help come from?
That question could be answered by defensive ends like Malik Jackson and Quanterus Smith.
Jackson has improved every season as a pro. Originally a fifth-round pick by the Broncos in the 2012 NFL draft, Jackson was a large, athletic—but raw—prospect coming out of Tennessee.
He has brute strength that allows him to push opponents out of the way with ease. Jackson had limited pass-rushing moves, but he’s been more creative as he continues to get better.
Jackson is incredibly excited to be learning from a future Hall of Fame player like Ware.
“[Ware has been teaching] how to use your hands better. Keep them in tight. Just rush at him, things like that. [There are] more things I could probably show you than tell you. He’s a great guy and a great teacher and always willing to teach you.” Jackson exclaimed, “It’s just a blessing for me to have him so I can learn from him.”
Smith was a fifth-round pick for the Broncos in the 2013 NFL draft. He fell in the draft coming out of Western Kentucky because of a knee injury that cut his final season short. At the time of his injury, Smith was leading the NCAA with 12.5 sacks.
He was able to practice last year in training camp, but it was clear that he wasn’t fully recovered from his knee injury. The Broncos decided to put him on season-ending injured reserve so he could recover fully.
Even though he missed his rookie season, Smith looked for the positives.
“I wasn’t disappointed. I kind of knew towards the end of the last preseason that I really wasn’t ready. So I took it as, ‘It’s going to be a learning [experience]. I can get bigger. I can let my knee heal all the way.’ Just doing the training camp, getting the experience of the NFL, was a big help. So I kind of knew what I was coming into this year.” Smith concluded, “So, yeah, I didn’t look at it as a disappointment or anything like that. I looked at it as something that can help me.”
Jackson had six sacks as a part-time player in 2013. He could match that number (or more) this season.
Broncos fans should expect Smith to compile around five sacks this year if he’s healthy and back to full strength. Having those two players combine for 10 or more sacks would also be a boost for the Broncos defense. They may in fact have two dynamic duos, one being an “A” team and the other being a talented “B” team.
All quotes and injury/practice observations obtained firsthand. Record/statistical information provided via email from the Denver Broncos. Contract and salary-cap information provided by Spotrac.com. Transaction history provided by ProSportsTransactions.com.
Cecil Lammey can be followed on Twitter @CecilLammey