We are nearing the midway point of the 2011 season (Wow, I know!) and amidst the continual flurry of Tim Tebow mania I thought it would be neat to take a look at the defensive side of things. I am sure we all know the Broncos defense is somewhere near the middle of the pack from a statistical standpoint, but I wanted to dig a little deeper to see if there is anything more to be positive about.
I'm not too fond of statistical posts, so I'll keep my meanderings short and let you draw your own conclusions from each section covered within.
We'll call this the most important defensive stat, since scoring is how you actually win games. The Broncos are giving up an average of 25 points per game, but I think that number is highly misleading, since the Broncos have held opponents under that number four times in six games. Judging by the trends, I'd say this defense is around the 21-23 range and I expect the Broncos to put that Packers game behind them again next week.
You may also notice that this blip is also during the time when the Broncos were suffering through many various injuries on defense. A healthy Broncos defense is actually a pretty good Broncos defense, from a points perspective.
The defense is not quite stout in the yardage area and unlike the points stat, I think this one represents right about where the Broncos will be come seasons end. 350 yards a game, unfortunately, is about the best one could hope for from a defense that was ranked dead last in every major statistical category the year before.
The important thing here is that the Broncos defense continues to hold teams to field goals or just outside of field goal range. We'll lose field position, but that is preferable to losing points.
Don't let the wild fluctuations fool you, this is a weakness. The Broncos suffered too many setbacks during training camp with IR and rape charges for the revamped unit to gel. The key is the pass rush, which I will discuss later.
The one kernel of positivity is that marginal quarterbacks (cough, JaMarcus Russel, cough) are not looking like perennial Pro Bowlers against this defense either. Mostly, it has been veterans or elite quarterbacks torching the Broncos secondary - Andy Dalton notwithstanding.
Also a mixed bag, I believe the rush defense is far better than advertised. So far the only teams to have the Broncos figured out is divisional rivals, which is to be expected. I see some pretty good numbers below that is very encouraging to me.
Remember when teams would just run over the Broncos snap after snap after snap? That isn't really happening anymore. It might work for one drive or one play, but this defense has some stoutness to it now.
This team needs to figure out how to generate some turnovers - like the one that put the ball within Matt Prater's range. The odd thing is, in the Broncos two wins they have 1 turnover. Yet they averaged nearly 2 turnovers a game in all their losses. Go figure. I'll still take the turnovers.
The dreaded pass rush. I was going to skip the chart for this section too, since there is little one can gather from such a visual aid, except ... I noticed a trend that brought a smile to my face. Not to mention add a little excitement about this defense moving forward.
You heard me complaining about the pass defense, well here is a trend that could make that worry lessen quite a bit. All I see here is the number of sacks...GOING UP!
Third Down Conversions
If there is one thing I noticed doing this compilation is that injuries hurt. Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking we'll still be able to compete, but this team is not very talented, which means they need every starter healthy and on the field. It's not that the backups are not talented per se, but most are young and inexperienced - which means something in the NFL.
Victories and third down conversions are almost synonymous. If a defense can't get off the field, the offense can't score any points. Hopefully we'll see more of last weeks defense on third downs than we did against the Packers.
Red Zone Defense
The Broncos defense has at least stiffened near the goal line. They are currently right near the middle of the pack in terms of the rest of the league. I guess I can be happy with that - hopefully the Broncos will build on that success moving forward!
After a sluggish start, the Broncos defense is beginning to get the job done in the red zone. This trend has to continue if this team is going to have long term success with Tebow under center trying to figure out how to succeed consistently in the NFL.
When I poured over all of these stats, one thing stood out to me. The Broncos defense was starting to hit its stride against the Titans when all of those injuries occurred. The two subsequent games were tough spots for the young players thrust into starting roles. It is good the Bye week came when it did.
I will try to include the chart below in whatever weekly post I may work on moving forward, so we can keep an eye on the trends and how the Broncos defense performed when stacked up to the season as a whole.
|--||Points||Total Yards||Pass Yards||Rush Yards||Turnovers||Sacks||3rd Down %||Red Zone %|
Last week, it is clear the Broncos defense was up to the task. As they should have been against an 0-5 football team with little offensive talent and a poor coaching staff. They just about improved their season totals in every area. This trend will have to continue as the much more talented offensive of the Detroit Lions come to town - Matthew Stafford or no.
At least things are finally looking up from a defensive standpoint ... it has been a long three years.