Denver Broncos defense not to be taken lightly, just look at their talent

Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller (58) during the first half against the Washington Redskins at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

For those who know the Denver Broncos talent on defense well, it’s always been a matter of “when” and not “if”. It’s always been a question of, “When will the Broncos defense play well?”, rather than “Will the Broncos defense ever play well?”. It’s simple to look at the stats and say, “The Broncos are allowing 6.5 net yards per pass attempt, which is 19th in the league, therefore they struggle in coverage,” without actually analyzing the players on defense and truly appreciating those players.

Sure it was the Kansas City Chiefs, but the Broncos defense held them down to 17 points and never allowed the Chiefs passing offense an inkling efficiency. The passing attack is the Achilles’ heel of this Chiefs team, but even an average of 5.1 yards per attempt is unpalatable by their standards. Jamaal Charles is as important to any singular team as any skill position player in this league, and he did manage to average 4.9 yards per attempt. But he also failed to make an impact in the passing game, thanks to a beautiful gameplan and even better execution on the part of the Broncos defense. Charles caught two passes for -6 yards (yes, negative) on eight targets, and there always seemed to be an athletic linebacker or defensive back around the Chiefs leader in receptions.

The Chiefs may have averaged 5.8 yards per carry on the ground, but the Denver Broncos repeatedly made timely stops. The Chiefs were just 4-14 on third and fourth downs, and the Broncos defense did a nice job of putting pressure on Alex Smith (three sacks for 30 yards, five QB hits in total). But the most interesting stat of them all is passes defended. Smith probably lucked out by not throwing an interception on his 45 attempts, because ten of them were defended by the Broncos (one in every 4.5 passes). Shaun Phillips, Malik Jackson, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Quentin Jammer all had two passes defended each.

Guys like standout nickel back Chris Harris Jr. have repeatedly stated their confidence in the Broncos ability to shut down opponents on defense, and it looks like they could be hitting their stride soon. It will only be a matter of time, too, and that’s when this defense will get even more scary. But honestly, they’ve been good overall this season with an outstanding average of just 3.7 yards per carry against (top five in the league). On pass defense, the Broncos have intercepted 13 passes, and the yards per attempt average is a bit skewed, because teams have an easier time of racking up garbage yards when the Broncos play prevent defense. This defense is now coming off of three straight excellent games on defense, which means that the New England Patriots should be a bit worried.

The Broncos talent on defense will be put to the test on Sunday Night Football next week against the Patriots, and that will be a real indicator of how much this defense has truly progressed. Against Tom Brady, Stevan Ridley, Rob Gronkowski, Nate Solder, and the other big names, we’ll get to see if this Broncos defense is really finally starting to play up to its potential. And boy, does it have potential. To finish off the piece, let’s take a look at some of the names below.

Chris Harris Jr.: Maybe the most underrated player in the game. Slot corners don’t get enough praise, and Harris is one of those guys who can shut down just about anyone in the middle of the field. His job becomes even more important next week against Danny Amendola.

Champ Bailey: He’s definitely not what he used to be, but he’s still a solid cornerback.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie: He’s been a pleasant surprise this season, and the Denver Broncos faith in DRC has been rewarded. The key thing is that he looks inspired now, and the move to Denver has done wonders for him, in the same vein that Aqib Talib has resurrected his career in New England. Rodgers-Cromartie has been playing shutdown football this season, and his raw talent is finally being used to its potential.

Quentin Jammer: I have no idea how he’s still doing it, but it’s crazy thinking that he, Kayvon Webster, and Tony Carter are the team’s No. 4, 5, and 6 corners. Talk about depth!

Rahim Moore: He has been the brunt of jokes of some fans ever since that awful blown coverage play to effectively lose last season’s playoff game to the Baltimore Ravens, but you can’t lose sight of the improvements that Moore has made in his third season in the league. His coverage has definitely improved this season, and he’s a good starting safety nowadays; don’t underrate him. (Sadly, he’s set to miss “several weeks”.)

Duke Ihenacho: A playmaker, Duke Ihenacho usurped Mike Adams as the team’s starting corner and has never looked back. A scrappy player who fights to the whistle, Ihenacho is one of the better safeties in the league in run support.

Von Miller: He’s still one of the best defensive players in the game, and only a fool would challenge his play.

Malik Jackson: Maybe one of the surprises of the season. Another diamond in the rough on defense uncovered by the Denver Broncos, Jackson has been dominant at times this season. Also adept at the run, Jackson makes a big impact as a pass rusher.

Robert Ayers: One of the more well-rounded defensive ends in the league. He’s not great by any means, but he’s definitely solid.

Danny Trevathan: There are very little linebackers in this league who are as athletic as Trevathan, and he has a knack for making big plays; just re-watch his monstrous hit on Anthony Sherman to force a key fumble in yesterday’s win.

Terrance Knighton: “Pot Roast” is doing his finest work this season and has done a nice job of pushing the pocket for the Broncos.

Wesley Woodyard: The hype train is a little bit too big for my liking, but he’s a quality player.

Shaun Phillips: He’s definitely no Elvis Dumervil, but he can create pressure in bursts and still does  a good job of bringing the QB to the ground even at this stage. Phillips can still explode off the edge at times, and his sack totals show it. He isn’t a consistent source of pressure anymore, but he’s still solid and takes plenty of pressure off of Miller. What shouldn’t get lost either is the fact that Phillips excels against the run, and the Broncos defense is definitely stout in that respect.

I know I may have missed a name or two, but I feel like the purpose was complete. I want to show that this Broncos defense is deep, has plenty of talent, and is one of the more underrated units in the league. It’s been a strength over the past couple of seasons, and it’s going to be a strength this season. Just wait until the playoffs, because this defense can definitely make big plays, key stops, and help limit big plays against them. Great defenses are built on depth, and the Broncos have depth. They aren’t a great defense, but I think people underrate the fact that they are a “good” defense. With an offense like theirs, they don’t need a great defense; just a good one that can force turnovers and make key stops. In my opinion, the Broncos meet all the requirements.



Topics: Chris Harris Jr., Denver Broncos, Dominique Rodgers Cromartie, Notes And Analysis, Shaun Phillips, Terrance Knighton, Von Miller

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  • anon76returns

    The Broncos have actually played 4 good games on Defense, even though the scoreboard didn’t show it against Indy. The Denver D kept Luck from being comfortable in the pocket, kept his completion rate and yards per attempt low, and actually got more pressure (Sacks+Hits+Hurries) on him than the Indy D got on Manning. Unfortunately they were done in by field position (avg. Indy scoring drive started on Bronco ~48 yard line) and some really strange mental mistakes on O, D, and coaching.

    • http://www.musketfire.com/ Joe Soriano

      Great point, and I really think I should have extended it to four. Looking in-depth at the stats while I was writing this piece, I wanted to say “four”, but I didn’t want to sound controversial or anything. Should’ve just said, “screw it,” but hopefully the point of the post was well-taken towards those who doubt the depth and talent of the Broncos defense. It’s pretty scary when you have guys like Harris Jr. flying under the radar.

      • anon76returns

        Yeah, I always get flack when I say the D played well against Indy, because they gave up 37 points (O gave up the safety). But in terms of statistical improvement in areas that were lacking (ESPECIALLY the Dallas game), it was definitely a good game for them.
        I’ve been charting their improvement since Von came back, and pretty much everything across the board has improved in the passing defense game. If their 4 game numbers were extended to a full season (and let’s face it, their last 4 games were against much more potent offenses than the Ravens, Giants, Raiders, and Jags), they would be leading the league in opposing completion %, opposing yards/attempt, and total pressures per QB dropback. They’d also be top 5 in opponents passing yards/game, QB rating, and yards per completion- that last one is a big one because before Von they were giving up 14.1 yards per catch, worst in the league at the time.

        Obviously the difference isn’t all Von, but rather the way he fits in with the other defensive pieces. It reminds us why they were ranked so highly last year.

        The only worrisome thing going forward is that they’re starting to give up some big runs- 5 runs of 25+ yards in the last 4 games, with four of those runs leading to points for the opposition. They had only allowed 2 such runs in the preceding six games, which was why opposing rushers had such poor numbers against them. If they can still keep the pressure going on the passer while cutting down the few mental mistakes on the run, then I think they have a good chance to finish the season as a top 5 unit, and to get that home field advantage in the playoffs again.

        • http://www.musketfire.com/ Joe Soriano

          Von is one of the best players in the game, so it is reasonable to think that he’s had a major effect on his defense. I agree, though, that there’s been a general improvement across-the-board, particularly in the secondary. They have made huge strides since Romo shredded them, but it’s also not too often that you have to face a guy like Romo who can put up that kind of a performance in a shootout. I mean, he was on fire.

          Denver is the best team in the AFC, and either the Broncos or Seahawks are the best team in the league right now.

  • LTGray

    Danny Trevathan also had a monster tackle of Knile Davis late in the first half, when Davis was running for a sure touchdown reception. Trevathan pulled Davis down at the 2 yard line, banging himself up in the process. Instead of a touchdown, the Chiefs had a first-and-goal at the 2, and they had to settle for that field goal that Andy Reid was angry about.

    Wesley Woodyard’s greatest contribution is not as a player, but as a leader on the field. The rest of the defense is better when he’s there.

    • http://www.musketfire.com/ Joe Soriano

      Great points on both accounts, thanks for dropping by. Going to have to keep Woodyard’s impact as a leader in mind going forward, looks like I’ve overlooked that.

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