It’s official: The Denver Broncos' page on Bleacher Report has been completely saturated with Tim Tebow talk. (Tebow, by the way, was terrific on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart the other night, if that counts for anything.)
But how about some love for the Broncos' new defense?
Specifically, can the Broncos assemble the Orange Crush 2.0? Maybe so. Let’s muse over the following:
The Broncos were certainly a dreadful defensive team last year, and we don't really need to crunch the numbers and consult the rankings. There is the eye test, after all, and the Broncos' defense flunked with flying colors. (Didn’t Tebow pass the eye test, though? Oh wait, sorry, this is not about Tebow.)
Rushing the passer, creating turnovers, stopping the run? Forget about it!
We fans were witnesses to failure. We don’t need no stinking numbers.
So, let's start there: Rushing the passer and forcing turnovers.
Peyton Manning is a future Hall of Famer, so if you want to beat him, you had better hit him early and often (legally, of course), making him feel uncomfortable in the pocket. It disrupts timing, puts more pressure on the receivers to run perfect routes and make perfect plays and leads to sacks and turnovers.
John Elway, John Fox and Brian Xanders understood this going into the draft, so they drafted Von Miller, who does look the part of a great player. He's the kind of guy, in fact, who can terrorize a quarterback, make plays down field and give the defense a new identity. Great play rubs off.
Sure, most Broncos' fans were clamoring for the team to draft a defensive lineman with the second overall pick, but the Broncos' brass had to be thinking: “This guy can be a superstar in the NFL. How can we pass him up?”
The Broncos also selected two more athletic and highly skilled linebackers, and many experts said both could be starters in time or even immediately. Those players were Nate Irving and Mike Mohamed, who both play with a lot of heart and intensity.
Very little attention has been given to Mohammed, so Broncos' fans may be in for a very nice surprise when they see him hit the field. He’s a big-time producer, plays smart and doesn’t get out of position very often, and he looks like a tight end when he catches an interception or recovers a fumble. He has fan favorite written all over him.
Fox devoted special attention to his linebacking corps because he intends it to be the heart of this new Broncos' defense. Well, that's what we should assume at this point.
Getting pressure on the quarterback is not just about having players who can get past the offensive line. It also requires athletic linebackers who can play good coverage, take away the 3- and 4-yard passes to running backs and tight ends.
These rooks might be able to help in that area. Don’t forget Miller has better speed than a lot of wide receivers and cornerbacks.
Next, there is the defensive line. True, defensive tackle is still an issue. The Broncos have Kevin Vickerson, and maybe they will re-sign Marcus Thomas, but they still need to find another defensive tackle once free agency starts.
The plan at defensive end is to use Elvis Dumervil at one end and Robert Ayers at the other.
We know what we have in Dumervil: If he stays healthy, he is one of the top pass rushers in the league.
Ayers is an unproven commodity at defensive end, though that is his natural position. (Yet another example of Josh McDaniels arrogance, believing he could make a defensive end a linebacker in his system.)
On third down situations, we might also see Miller slide down to the defensive end spot opposite Dumervil.
That alone is a great plan for rushing the passer and creating turnovers.
Here is one more player Broncos' fans should keep their eye on: Rookie defensive end Jeremy Beal, whom the Broncos selected with their final pick in the draft.
Beal was considered one of the top pass rushers in college football last year, and he was even named the AP’s Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
He obviously didn’t get the same kind of love Miller received going into the draft because of concerns about his poor NFL Combine performance and supposed lack of speed, but don’t forget Dumervil wasn’t supposed to be big or fast enough to rush the passer in the NFL either.
Could Beal be the second coming of Dumervil? We can only speculate at this point, but it’s clear he will compete with Ayers for the other defensive end position.
Sooner coach Bob Stoops thinks Beal is the real deal. He said: "The guy is the absolute best. He just consistently makes plays. We stood him up and put him in a different position last week because of all (Oklahoma State's) four wide receiver sets. He took to it. He's out there playing cornerback half the time. The guy can do anything." Read more here.
In the secondary, the Broncos also added Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter, the two top-ranked safeties in the draft.
Of course, they will also have Champ Bailey, who is still among the premier cornerbacks in the league, even at this later stage in his career.
This all adds up to much better personnel, better overall speed and athleticism, and a much-needed youth movement. With the Broncos also likely to be active signing free agents once the lockout is lifted, it’s hard not to be optimistic about the Broncos' chances of recreating an Orange Crush-esque defense.
When you think about the original Orange Crush defense, you think of linebackers Randy Gradishar and Tom Jackson. Linebackers Bob Swenson and Joe Rizzo were no slouches either. In fact, that linebacking corps is considered one of the best tandems of all time. Back then, the Orange Crush was fueled by its linebackers, and thanks to the influx of talent at that position in 2011, the Broncos and their fans could be looking at similar prospects.
Rushing the passer, creating turnovers and stopping the run? Yeah, these guys should get it done.