Broncos Defense Leadership: Nolan to Martindale and Not Missing a Beat

Michael KellerAnalyst IIIJanuary 31, 2010

DENVER - 2009:  Don Martindale of the Denver Broncos poses for his 2009 NFL headshot at photo day in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by NFL Photos)
NFL Photos/Getty Images

Now that there has been time for the dust to settle, it looks like the Denver Broncos defense is still in good hands.

While another change (fifth defensive coordinator in five years), this change won't be as bad as many seem to think. Mike Nolan was a great decision for McDaniels last year and set the foundation for the move to the 3-4 defense that proved to be better than most people expected (myself included). Nolan, having been a head coach before, brought maturity to the staff and set up the defense to get better with some additional talent.

Sure, they faltered down the stretch, especially against the run. I think some of that was due to a lack of size up the middle and to them wearing down at the end. This probably led to some players being out of position and trying to make too much happen.

Why Nolan left looks to be at least a 50/50 decision between him and Josh, with a difference in philosophy regarding run blitzes and maybe Nolan feeling that he would be a better fit in the Miami organization.

With all that being said, the addition of Don Martindale should bring a hard-nosed approach (ala Buddy/Rex/Rob Ryan) to the team. Anyone that says that Rex didn't bring that to the Jets this past year and got them really close to a Super Bowl appearance, was watching a different Jets team than I was.

And Martindale is not completely new to the Broncos, as he was the linebackers coach and was at least partially responsible for the development of Elvis Dumervil as a burgeoning talent at outside linebacker. Elvis made the move from undersized defensive tackle to the linebacker position and became the NFL leader in sacks in one year.

He took on the task of converting first round draft pick Robert Ayers into that same type of player. That effort would have to be considered a work-in-progress at this time but may prove successful in the next year or two. This also means he has knowledge of the current players, their strengths and weaknesses and will be a key factor in the upcoming draft and Free Agent signings.

With the addition of some new talent at key positions (Nose Tackle and Inside Linebacker), either through the draft (McClain, McClain, McClain) or free agency (Hampton, Wilfork), this already strong pass defense could become a formidable run defense as well. And that would be a great boost to an offense that has trouble scoring inside the red zone and will be making a move from a zone to a power blocking scheme to bolster the run game.

In reports from the Denver Post and local sports radio stations, the defensive leaders like Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins have spoken out loudly in support of Martindale and his promotion. If the team leadership is behind this, I see it as a successful transition next year.

Plus having been a coach in Oakland shouldn't hurt, seeing as how another ex-coach for Krazee Al with the initials of Mike Shanahan had a pretty good run here.

Will all this work out as I and much of the Denver fans and coaches and players hope? That remains to be seen. But from this fan's perspective, to quote Maverick in Top Gun "I don't know, but uh, it's looking good so far".