It all begins in the trenches. The Denver Broncos defensive line is one of the deepest units on the team. Competition will be intense as the team prepares for the start of the 2014 season. It is a unit that has everyone back healthy after an injury-plagued season last year and will be much improved.
Because the offense was so prolific last season, the problems on the defense were often overlooked. The mindset became one of holding an opponent to less than 25 points. While the defense improved as the season progressed, it never did reach that elite level. It was the Super Bowl that highlighted that old adage that a good defense will always stop a good offense, and that defense wins championships.
During the offseason the Broncos made a concerted effort to improve their overall defense and the defensive line in particular. DeMarcus Ware is one of the big name signings who is expected to have a major impact on the overall defense. He will bookend with Von Miller which should, conceivably, give the Broncos one of the best pass rushing duos in the entire league.
But Ware is not the only defensive line improvement. For the first time since last training camp the line is healthy and the defensive line competition will bear watching. That is good news for the entire Denver Bronco defense that is expected to be much improved in 2014.
Projected as the first unit starters are Ware, Derek Wolfe, Sylvester Williams and Terrance Knighton. Backing them up are Malik Jackson, Kevin Vickerson, Mitch Unrein and Quanterus Smith. There are thirteen players in camp and the team is expected to keep nine or ten. The ability to play special teams and to play multiple positions will go a long way in determining who will make the final 53-man roster.
Early last season teams were able to run extremely well against the Broncos as injuries forced players to adjust to new roles. By the end of the season, the run defense improved dramatically as Williams and Knighton became more familiar with each other and the defensive schemes being employed.
Pass rushing and putting pressure on the quarterback, however, is the defensive name of the game. With the loss of pass rushing linebacker Von Miller, that facet suffered last season. With the return of Miller and the addition of Ware, this unit could become one of the very best.
All players from the first and second units are expected to make the final cut. From the remaining group, Marvin Austin, a second round draft pick in 2011, has the highest upside. Staying healthy has been his problem. The others, Sione Fua, Hall Davis, Kenny Anunike and Greg Latta, need an exceptional training camp or an injury to have a chance to make the team.
The return from injury of Derek Wolfe will give the line an added boost. He can play effectively both at end and tackle and plays the running and passing games equally well. In today’s defensive schemes many players have become specialists and that leads to a rotation of players predicated on down and distance. Denver has the personnel to keep players fresh and playing at their optimum.
With the varied skill set and versatility of the 2014 defensive line, the Denver Broncos defense will be much improved in all facets of the game. Training camp will determine what the final roster will look like. Whoever makes the final cut, the defensive line will have more aggressiveness and versatility than it did last season.
Commentary By Hans Benes