We all know our defense sucked this year and the last half of last year. Unfortunately the numbers show that we have - well - sucked for at least 4 years on defense. So switching back to a 4-3 won't necessarily do anything except cause another mass turnover on the defensive roster. Here's the numbers -- Warning: Lots of numbers
These all come from Football Outsiders . These may be a bit different than other ranking data because it is adjusted for strength of schedule and opponents.
Summary: Broncos Ranking v NFL
|Year||Pass D||Run D||Overall D||Consistency|
The bad news is what we all know. The worse news is that #1 ranking in consistency means that we were the most consistently bad defense this year too. The 1st half of 2009 was an adrenaline-fueled outlier (it'll affect a few other numbers too so probably better to ignore much of 2009). Apart from that, there are no good old days to restore.
Per Drive Rankings v NFL
Apart from the adrenaline-fueled 2009, There isn't much good news here either. An erratic rate of forcing fumbles and turnovers? Coaching and playcalling can change this a bit but not by anywhere near as much as 2009 stats would indicate.
Rushing/Line Defense v NFL
|Year||YPC||Short Yd||Run Stuff||Open Field||Sacks|
One glimmer of hope here. In short yardage situations, we're acceptable. The switchover to 3-4 in 2009 created only temporary problems. But we are not getting behind the line to either stuff the run or sack the QB -- not the line in 2007/8 (4/3) and not the linebackers in 2009/10 (3/4). Don't really know whether the deterioration is the switch in scheme or the failure to bring in playmaker linebackers since the change in scheme.
Run Defense Ranking by Direction (left end means the run is towards our defense's right side)
|Year||Left End||Left Tackle||Middle||Right Tackle||Right End|
Uggh. I don't know which players were where when or which are still on the roster but this isn't a single player problem. This is a consequence of bringing in low-upside free agents rather than drafting one or two hungry upside/BPA linebackers and d-line every year. The most you can hope for overall is mediocre and average. Unfortunately it also means no one draft pick will solve the problem either. More of a no improvement over the years problem than a big falloff in 2010 problem.
Pass Defense by Target (not ranked - if it's red it's bad, if it's green it's good)
|Year||#1 WR||#1 WR||#2 WR||#2 WR||Other WR||Other WR||TE||TE||RB||RB|
Shoot. The font color stuff didn't work. But there is a bright spot here. #1 WR do not have good days playing Denver. Those columns are at/near NFL best and in green. Lack of a pass rush affects the other secondary more. Overall though, the secondary has been deteriorating over time - a lot more red numbers in 2008-2010 - and our nickel depth and LB coverage in particular.
Not much good news here. Coaching and adrenaline can make a difference -- for a few games at least. We saw it in the first half of 2009. And Fox seems like the right sort of players-over-scheme coach to get the players to up their game. But it is no substitute for annual infusions of new blood via the draft into the defense who are not as scheme-dependent as older free agents. With a much bigger infusion this year so that 2011 can be a test things on defense and see which work year.
If I were in charge of the draft I would probably go best-player-available on defense all the way - with an emphasis on coachability and multi-position talent and draft strategery - rather than draft for need or a scheme. Hopefully the Broncos really ramp up their defensive scouting between now and draft day. There's a lot of very solid talent at different positions that will fall to us with our 2nd and 3rd round picks with little/no need for reaching. It's only after those picks where the talent level really drops off fast at certain positions.