Click here to read part one of “The Way I See It.”
Disclaimer: My ignorance, which I am seeking to rectify, regarding the 3-4 defensive scheme is probably going to be apparent in this post. I am going to take my crack at assessing the Denver Broncos’ defensive line.
In my opinion, this is the area where the Denver Broncos need the most improvement, especially at the nose tackle position, which is what this post will be all about.
One thing that I do know about the 3-4 is this: you must have a beast at nose tackle. I used to play pick-up basketball games with a guy who played nose tackle for Arizona State University, and he defined the role of nose tackle as follows: “My job was to make the linebackers look good.”
There is a lot of truth to that. A threatening nose tackle will draw enough attention from the interior offensive line, thus, freeing up the inside linebackers for run and pass blitzes.
Right now, I don’t see anyone at defensive tackle who is that much of a threat–no offense to Ronald Fields and Marcus Thomas. Fields and Thomas combined for 52 total tackles and zero sacks, pass deflections, and forced fumbles. Those really aren’t the type of numbers to strike fear into the hearts of opposing interior linemen.
So, where do we go from here regarding the nose tackle position? Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh and Oklahoma’s Gerald McCoy, two prospective 3-4 beasts, are most likely going to be long gone after the first ten picks in the 2010 NFL Draft .
Do the Broncos try to trade down to a top five pick to have a chance at either of these prospects? They probably don’t have any kind of a chance of getting the number one overall pick, so Suh is most likely out of the picture. It doesn’t hurt to imagine, though, does it?
There are three nose tackles available via free agency whom I think might be an upgrade, Vince Wilfork , Casey Hampton , and Ryan Pickett . All three are unrestricted free agents and played in 3-4 schemes.
Hampton would probably be the best player, but he is 32 and would probably be more of a short term fix. Wilfork and Pickett both had less total tackles than Ronald Fields and the same amount of sacks, zero. Wilfork only played in 13 games, however.
The problem with the 3-4 is the difficulty in finding such a dominant defensive tackle; they are few and far between. Denver definitely needs to do something here if they are to improve the horrible display they showed in week 17 when Jamal Charles ran all over the Broncos D. Maybe Hampton would be the way to go for the short term. The NFL is, after all, becoming more of short term league.
The most likely thing that will happen, in my opinion, is that McDaniels will try to load up on as many New England guys that he can; hence, Vince Wilfork will be wearing blue and orange in 2010. He is definitely a beast as far as size is concerned. My concern is…well, did you see the way Wilfork and the rest of the Patriots defense played against the Baltimore Ravens on Wild Card weekend?
There are certainly other defensive tackles available via the draft and free agency. I am basing this analysis on the needs of a 3-4 defense. There is one guy whom I haven’t mentioned, and I think he could be a plausible acquisition in the draft. His name is Terrence Cody of the national champion Alabama Crimson Tide.
My main concern with Cody would be his stamina. The dude proved to be a beast as far as pass deflections and field goal blocks are concerned, but can he handle the intensity and speed of the elite players of the NFL? He certainly handled it in what is arguably the toughest conference in college football. I think he would be worth a shot. However, I don’t think that the offensive “guru” Josh McDaniels is going to agree with me.
Something has to be done. If nothing is done through the draft or free agency, then, hopefully the new defensive coordinator will be able to coach Ronald Fields into a premier nose tackle. The Broncos need to start bringing the orange crush from front and center.
So, to sum it all up, here are my top four scenarios (that I think are realistic):
1. Use the first round pick to take Terrence Cody. If he struggles with stamina, Ronald Fields would make an excellent number two nose tackle. Cody is too big and too passionate to pass on if he is still available when the Broncos make their first pick.
2. Go after Casey Hampton in free agent signings and sign him to a two or three-year deal. During that time, make moves to acquire a top tier nose tackle via free agency or the draft.
3. Do nothing and keep drafting receivers and running backs, but, please, Josh McDaniels, switch back to the 4-3 (probably not realistic) if you don’t care to address the nose tackle need.
4. Go after Vince Wilfork or Ryan Pickett via free agency.
What do you think the Broncos should do regarding defensive tackles?