The Denver Broncos are now in a rebuilding phase looking to find the Denver Bronco identity, that will carry the franchise forward to greater things.
For all the things Josh McDaniels did wrong with the franchise, he did one thing right and that was leaving behind an offense with tons of potential, only short of a good running game.
Rebuilding the Denver Broncos has therefore everything to do with building a solid defense and finding a defensive identity.
The hiring of John Fox indicates that the Broncos will be playing a 4-3 defensive scheme, even though Fox has declared that the defensive scheme will rely on the evaluation of the roster.
With the right defensive coordinator and the right players the 3-4 is an exciting defensive scheme, but it is also complicated and vulnerable if you don't have the right personnel. Running a successful 3-4 defense requires a stud 3-4 NT to clog up the middle. Jamaal Williams is over the hill and it is even questionable if he will return for the 2011 season. There doesn’t seem to be a stud NT available neither in the draft nor in free agency.
All though Fox has said that he will evaluate the roster before he decides which defensive system to run, with Fox’s running the 4-3 in Carolina and the staff he has brought in, I think it is highly probable that the Broncos will return to the 4-3 for the 2011 season.
With Fox at the helm I think the Broncos game will be build around field position - strong running game on offense and a defense that doesn't give up any easy yards. And for that I think the 4-3 is a better fit.
Every thing is of course dependent on the the agreement on the CBA. But to make any sense in this rebuilding scenario I have taken it for granted that an agreement will be reached and the CBA will be in place.
If the Denver Broncos switch to the 4-3 it is key to find out how to utilize Elvis Dumervil. Will he be able to have the same kind of production as he did in the 3-4 - and is he big enough to play DE in the 4-3. And exactly the same question will have to be asked about Robert Ayers.
In my wishful thinking scenario Elvis Dumervil is going to play DE in the 4-3. Robert Ayers will be moved to OLB but I think he could be rotated in on DE and be a key in keeping the offense guessing showing different pass rush looks.
That means that the Broncos will be looking for a starting DE either in free agency or in the Draft. (more about that later.)
My biggest question about rebuilding the defense is about how the current roster of DTs and DEs fit the 4-3 scheme. It is questionable if Jamaal Williams at NT will return and Kevin Vickerson, Marcus Thomas, Ryan McBean and Ronnie Fields are free agents.
I would expect the Broncos to address the DT position in the first two rounds of the draft and possibly make a key free agent signing. Nick Fairley could be hard to pass on if available and in the 2 nd round Corey Liuget, Drake Nevis or Muhammed Wilkerson could be nice options. In free agency John Jolly DT (Packers) or Barry Cofield (Giants) seems like nice fits.
Depending on how Ayers or Dumervil fits in the 4-3, DE could also be addressed either through the draft like De'Quan Bowers in the first or Justin Houston in the 2nd round. Free agency starter material could be the likes of Charles Johnson from the Panthers or Ray Edwards from the Vikings.
As I was looking at the bigger picture trying to figure out how to rebuild the Denver Broncos defense it - in my mind - became more an more obvious how important the line backing core was.
The key to the line backing core is of course how Ayers and Dumervil fit in the 4-3 defense. Will the play as OLB or DEs. If Ayers and Dumervil will be playing as DEs the Broncos will need to add starting material OLBs and possibly a starting ILB depending on how D.J. Williams fit as MLB in the 4-3.
Resigning Wesley Woodyard seems like a nice first move and with his versatility he could probably fill in at all LB positions. Hunter and Haggan needs to be evaluated as to how they fit, where as Joe Mays seems like starter material.
Signing one of the linebackers in the draft with the no 2 pick would seem like a huge reach. Von Miller for the 3-4 defense or Akeem Ayers for the 4-3 are the top rated OLB and If the Broncos could trade down to between the 10th and the 20th pick one of the two would probably be available. In the second round Mark Hertzlich and Jeremy Beal are good examples of the great dept at the LB positions in the 2nd and 3rd round.
In free agency James Anderson (Panthers) seems like a great fit for Fox to lure to Denver, but also Rocky McIntosh who doesn’t fit in the Redskins 3-4 would be solid.
I think that the secondary at the moment looks the most vulnerable, with a bucket load of veterans that could be on they way out: Bailey (free agent), Dawkins (retiring), Hill, Goodman (not performing). On top of that Cox could be heading for jail and the rest of the secondary is very young.
I think it is key for the secondary that Champ Bailey is resigned to play safety or corner back. At the very least another veteran S/CB must be added in free agency to be the leader of the group.
With that said I think that there are some interesting and talented young players in the Denver Broncos secondary, but they definitely need and upgrade and depth.
In the draft Patrick Peterson is the obvious choice with the 2nd pick in the first round. Patrick Peterson is capable of playing any position in the secondary and I would absolutely love to see him wreck havoc with Champ Bailey as his mentor.
In the second round I like big and physical Jimmy Smith at CB, I think he would complement the rest of the secondary nicely. Also Raheem Moore at safety seems like a very nice fit, although a more physical strong safety would be great.
In free agency players like Antonio Cromartie (Jets), Richard Marshall (Panthers) are good but not franchise caliber corner backs. Free agent strong safeties seems more in short supply.
There is no doubt the rebuilding the Denver Broncos defense cannot be done alone through the draft. The Broncos need some veteran player to lead the way.
Therefore the first thing the Denver Broncos do in my rebuilding scenario is to resign Champ Bailey to be the leader of the Broncos secondary. This could mean moving Champ Bailey to safety.
Right after Champ Bailey, Wesley Woodyard is also resigned to the line backer unit.
Fox makes a quick hit and run at his old team and signs Charles Johnson DE to a long term deal, to give the Broncos a 1st class pass rush. Robert Ayers is moved to OLB, but will rotate in at DE. In the same move D’Angelo Williams RB is signed to power up the Broncos running game.
DT Barry Cofield from the New York Giants is signed as an experienced 4-3 DT, with proven solid production.
Depending on the evaluation of the current roster I will look for the Denver Broncos to make another starting caliber 4-3 DT signing.
Kyle Orton has had two good seasons in Denver, but with the arrival of Tim Tebow his days were numbered.
The one year extension of Ortons contract was clearly a "we want to trade you" contract.
The Arizona Cardinals are in dire needs of a proven veteran QB to lead the team. Orton wont be challenged by Skelton and Hall, and he walks into an offense with a solid running game and great receivers - All the best to you Kyle.
For Kyle Orton the Denver Broncos receive the Cardinals pick no 5 in the 3rd round.
The Broncos also has great depth at wide receiver. I would look for the Denver Broncos to get good value for money from one of their wide receivers. Other writers on B/R has suggested that Eddie Royal should be reunited with Shanahan in Washington.
Rumors on B/R have also suggested that Larry Fitzgerald were to be traded out of Arizona as he is in his last year of his contract. Trading Brandon Lloyd to Arizona to continue his relationship with Orton might all of a sudden be an interesting option. But that is really just speculating.
After trading Kyle Orton to the Arizona Cardinals the Broncos are entering the 2011 draft with the following picks in the first three rounds.
1 rd pick no 2
2 rd picks no 4, 14
3 rd picks no 3, 5
I will keep my draft suggestions to these picks, as everything here after becomes to fuzzy for my limited knowledge.
If Denver have to pick at no 2 Patrick Peterson in my mind will have to be the pick. Remember that in this scenario the Broncos signed DE Charles Johnson from the Carolina Panthers in free agency. Nick Fairly would also have to be taken in to serious consideration if he was available.
However this is my wishful thinking scenario - - So the Denver Broncos trade out of the no 2 spot in the first round with the Houston Texans.
With the resigning of Champ Bailey the Denver Broncos feel they can get more value for money from trading down and get more pick to rebuild the defense.
The Houston Texans are desperate to land Patrick Peterson to solve their problems in the secondary. The Houston Texans figure that's all they need to take the division in 2011 is Patrick Peterson the best player in the draft.
In exchange the Broncos get the Texans 11th pick in the 1 st round, their 10th pick in the 2nd round and their 1st round pick in 2012.
But the Denver Broncos need trade the 2012 1st rd pick for the Patriots 28th pick in the 1st round in 2011.
Wit that trade the Denver Broncos are now sitting on 7 of the 70 first pick:
1 round picks: 11 and 28
2 round picks: 4, 10, 14
3 round picks: 3, 5
Pick 11: OLB Akeem Ayers
With the 11th pick in the first round the Broncos select ultra versatile 4-3 OLB Akeem Ayers. Akeem Ayers can do it all, rushing the passer and cover. Switching to the 4-3 Ayers is a better fit than Von Miller who is better suited for the 3-4 scheme. Ayers has the talent and potential to be the centerpiece of the Broncos linebacker core for years.
Pick 28: DT Corey Liuget
With their 28th pick in the 1st rd from the Patriots the Broncos select DT Corey Liuget. The Broncos need to add talent to the D-line and Corey Liuget is the best defensive pick in the bottom of the first round. He works well both in the pass rush and as a run stopper. Stephen Paea could also be a nice pickup here if he is still on the board.
Pick 4: CB Jimmy Smith
With their 4 th pick in the 2nd round the Broncos select CB Jimmy Smith. Even with Champ Bailey resigned the Broncos need to ad secondary starter potential. Jimmy Smith is a physical corner with good intangibles. And shutting down A. J. Green in a game speaks for it self.
Pick 10: OT/OG DeMarcus Love
With their 10th pick in the 2nd the Broncos select DeMarcus Love. He is drafted as a future starter at RT or RG. Ryan Harris is when fit a great RT, but with his injury history you have to consider value for money when/if extending his contract. DeMarcus Love can play all along the O-line and provides great depth. He can play at LT if Clady is moved to RT to protect Tebows blind side. Is experienced and a leader.
Pick 14: S Quinten Carter
With their 14th pick in the 2nd round the Broncos select safety Quinten Carter. Quinten Carter is a physical safety that is great in run support. He loves the big hits on receivers going over the middle. He is a player with great intangibles and could be the future leader of the secondary when Champ Bailey retires.
Pick 3: DT Jarvis Jenkins
With their 3rd pick in the 3rd round the Broncos select Jarvis Jenkins DT. Jenkins is at big and powerfull DT that will be a solid addition. He excels as a run stopper and could be just the medicine the Broncos needs to improve their run defense.
Pick 5: CB Chimdi Checkwa
With their 5th pick in the 3rd round the Broncos select Chimdi Checkwa CB. Very talented could be a steal. He is a speedy and tough CB, who never gives up. Isn't the best tackler as he isn't the strongest player.
With this pick I also gave serious consideration to DTs Christian Ballard and Kendrick Ellis and also DE/OLB Jeremy Beal or DE Sam Acho.
The Later rounds
In the later round I think the Denver Broncos should be looking for:
- a big brusing RB
- a physical freak of a DE
- a speedy WR
- a run stopping DT
- a RT/RG prospect
In the process of making this wishful thinking scenario of rebuilding the Denver Broncos defense, I think the hardest part was to figure out how the existing players on the roster would fit as defensive tackles in a 4-3 defensive scheme.
Although I knew it was pretty bad, I was still surprised to find that there seems almost nothing to build on. At best there are a couple of player that could add veteran depth like Kevin Vickerson, Justin Bannan.
However with this wishful thinking scenario the Denver Broncos defense in a 4-3 defensive scheme could look like this:
DE: Elvis Dumerville (David Veikune)
DT: Drake Nevis (Jarvis Jenkins) (Kevin Vickerson)
DT: Barry Cofield (Marcus Thomas) (Justin Bannan)
DE: Charles Johnson (Robert Ayers)
OLB: Robert Ayers (Wesley Woodyard) (Jason Hunter)
ILB: D.J. Williams (Joe Mays) (Wesley Woodyard)
OLB: Akeem Ayers (Mario Haggan)
LCB: Perrish Cox (Syd’Quan Thompson) (Cassius Vaughn)
FS: Champ Bailey (Daniel McBarth)
SS: Quinton Carter (David Bruton) (Kyle McCarthy)
RCB: Jimmy Smith (Chimdi Checkwa) (Nate Jones)