In 2008, the Denver Broncos ranked 27th against the rush, allowing 146.1 yards per game on the ground.
The only teams who were worse (Cleveland, St. Louis, Kansas City, Oakland, and Detroit) all ended up with selections in the top seven of the 2009 NFL Draft.
In this league, success usually goes hand-in-hand with two things: effective running, and stopping the run effectively. The Denver Broncos have struggled mightily with the latter over the past two seasons.
For what it is worth, the lack of success stopping the run cannot be attributed to lack of personnel and coaching change, as the Broncos have had three different defensive coordinators in the past three seasons, and thus, three new defensive schemes.
The newest defense will be coordinated by former San Francisco 49ers head coach and longtime defensive guru Mike Nolan, who will implement the first 3-4 system the Broncos will have had in over two decades.
For this particular scheme, it is well documented that arguably the most important position is the nose tackle.
Having one of the top six worst run defenses in the NFL, one would imagine the Broncos' new management would go after an "elite" nose tackle talent to help rectify the problem, but Josh McDaniels and company had another plan.
Instead of spending unnecessary amounts of money on Colin Cole, Albert Haynesworth, or trading too many draft picks in order to move up and select B.J. Raji, the Broncos went out and acquired what they hope is a gem.
To hopefully start at nose tackle, the Broncos brought in free agent defensive tackle Ronald Fields, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers.
Fields signed a two-year, $5 million contract with the Broncos early in the offseason, and he may have been a steal at that price.
Don't believe me?
Greg Rosenthal of ProFootballTalk.com points out that at his low price, Fields already knows Nolan's scheme from his days with the Niners, he is the ideal size at 6'2" 321 pounds, and he can hold the line of scrimmage.
In five seasons, Fields has 97 tackles, one sack, and has participated in 49 games, starting nine.
Obviously, his statistics are not unbelievable, but if he can be efficient for the Broncos and take on double teams, he will be the best acquisition of an offseason that has seen many new faces come to the Mile High City.
Another player who hopes to make the final roster with the chance to play nose tackle is undrafted free agent Chris Baker.
Baker started his collegiate career with Penn State, and later transferred to Hampton after some off-field issues arose.
At 6'2" 326 pounds, Baker has played both defensive tackle and, quite surprisingly defensive end in his collegiate days, and many fans are hoping the Broncos can use the versatile big man in multiple roles.
I was lurking around the comments on an article written at Mile High Report, and I saw a comment that intrigued me very much. I do not have the exact link, so I will paraphrase what it said: "Like the center in basketball, many people feel the nose tackle in football has to automatically be the biggest guy, which is not true."
I could not agree more.
The Broncos have several players who were mentioned in my previous Defensive End's article such as Carlton Powell and Marcus Thomas who both have the chance to play nose tackle because of their abilities to take on double teams.
While Thomas and Powell could be nose tackles playing in defensive ends' bodies, Baker could very well be a defensive end playing in a nose tackle's body.
Surely the Broncos will appreciate the versatility and athleticism, something they have severely lacked for a very long time.
Parker seems like a long shot to make the team with the amount of youth the Broncos have brought in on the defensive line, but if he can put it together in training camp, he definitely looks the part.
Many felt the Broncos made a huge mistake by not using more/higher draft picks on this position, and I will disagree with that statement completely.
Why should Denver have reached for a mediocre talent in B.J. Raji, who would have cost far more than any of the three players who were brought in for similar production?
Should the Broncos have pursued the $100 million man in Albert Haynesworth instead of filling more pressing needs on the defensive side of the ball?
To me, it is a myth that the Broncos' number one offseason task was to upgrade their defensive line.
In 2008, the Broncos were one of the very worst teams in the NFL in turnover ratio at -17, which was clearly the main focus of McDaniels and company this offseason.
The Broncos' defensive line is nothing to write home about--yet. They have much to prove as a young unit with minimal experience, but this group is already shaping up to be much more formidable than the one thrown together in 2008, and Broncos fans and critics alike could be silenced for their harsh evaluations of the Denver "bigs".