The Denver Broncos have long been one of the worst teams defensively in all of the NFL, it's time for that trend to change.
Defense wins championships, at least that's the old adage, and the Broncos have been offense-only-minded for far too long.
That's part of the reason John Elway and Pat Bowlen brought in John Fox to head coach the Broncos—Fox's 30-plus years of defensive coaching experience means a change of football focus in Denver.
All that experience and his defensive mind state makes Fox the antithesis of the Broncos last head coach Josh McDaniels, now Elway, Brian Xanders and Fox have to prove their draft day thinking is opposite of McD's failures.
Coming in, McDaniels inherited arguably the worst defense in all of football, the 2008 Broncos gave up 488 points (30.5 PPG). And while McDaniels, and then GM Xanders knew Denver's defense was devastatingly bad, six of their 10 picks taken in 2009 were offensive players.
In 2009, with Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator in Denver, the Broncos defense improved mightily, allowing only 324 points (20.25 PPG). Still, there were many holes in Denver's D and teams learned how to score on them in the second half of the season.
McDaniels was stubborn though, he fought with and dismissed Nolan, the best defensive coordinator the Mile High City had seen in years, and McD kept his focus on what he knew best, the offense.
In McDaniels' (and Xanders') second draft, they took five offensive players with their first five picks, and 6-9 players taken overall line up on offense. The two arguably stretched for the oft-injured Demaryius Thomas and quarterback Tim Tebow, and while the two offensive lineman taken in the second and third round (Zane Beadles, J.D. Walton) look to be studs ready for the long haul, the Broncos' 2010 draft was a bust too.
In two drafts, McD and Mr. X selected 12 offensive players with their 19 picks. At most, four of those men will start for the Broncos in 2011 (Moreno, Walton, Beadles and possibly Tebow), the others are either currently injured, backups or they've been released from the team. As for the seven defensive players, many of whom were taken in the late rounds of the draft, only Robert Ayers looks to compete for a starting spot, though 5-7 are still with the team.
That's where Elway, Fox and Xanders come in, starting this Friday in New York City.
The new Broncos' braintrust must go defense, defense, and more defense in the draft, not to would be a disaster.
Denver needs multiple defensive linemen, at least one linebacker, a safety and a corner back. They also need a tight end and a running back, but the Broncos can't draft either of those positions without angering the fanbase.
The Broncos find themselves in a unique position, with the highest pick they've ever had at No. 2.
There are a few scenarios that could come into play.
With only seven picks overall, the Broncos could trade the No. 2 pick down, to 3, 4, 5 or 10 if they wanted to, picking up additional draft selections along the way.
It would be a smart tactic because they have so many holes to fill, but it would be the wrong way to go.
The Broncos have never lost 12 games in one season, they've never been as bad as they were in 2010. They've never needed a pick as important as what a No. 2 pick can bring them.
Denver has the choice to pick from the best defenders in the nation. They could take Nick Fairley, Patrick Peterson, Marcel Dareus or Von Miller and the most die-hard Denver Bronco fan couldn't complain.
To take a corner back at No. 2 is too high in my opinion, the Broncos need a front-seven playmaker that will be a cornerstone of the defense for the next decade along with Elvis Dumervil.
That player should be Marcel Dareus, he plays a variety of different techniques and the Broncos could line him up on the opposite side of Dumervil to balance the line and give the Broncos a definite boost in the running game defense that's been lacking for seasons.
While Dareus was the seemingly unanimous pick for the last few weeks, now Miller seems to be the en vogue pick by the media "experts."
And Miller is a great player, a linebacker out of Texas A & M that can impact the NFL game right away both by supporting the run and by covering tight ends and running backs in the passing game.
Miller sounds like just the player the Broncos need, and he sold himself well today on ESPN.
"I'm a team guy," Miller said. " First and foremost. I'm gonna be a team guy. I'm going to come in with big ears and big eyes and I'm gonna do whatever it takes to win games."
That's exactly the type of guy Denver needs. Someone that will lead the defense with fervor and a wonderful work ethic, the same way Tim Tebow is trying to do on the offensive side of the ball.
DJ Williams is getting older, he's arguably already lost a step and he's never been the best cover linebacker, Miller could contribute right away.
The Broncos should take Dareus or Miller, no one else, and take them at No. 2.
If they take Dareus, they should look to try to take Casey Matthews, a strong and quick linebacker out of the University of Oregon, in the second round. Whether or not Matthews is there at No. 67 is up in the air, and seems unlikely since he's such a great player. But if he is, the Broncos have to take him.
Beyond that, Denver has to simply take the best player available when their names come up and they are on the clock. The Broncos should take another defensive lineman (an end if it is Dareus the DT), a safety/cornerback or both, and possibly even another linebacker late in the draft.
Everything relies on Elway, Fox and Xanders—they look to turn around one of the most prestigious organizations in all of the NFL in the Broncos from basically the worst team in the NFL to a championship contender once again.
This is Elway's first chance to prove himself as an executive, his first test in the interview to be the Broncos' owner one day.
This is Fox's chance to prove he can turn around another franchise, just as he did with the Panthers when he took them to the Super Bowl in his second season.
This is Xander's chance to prove he's an intelligent football mind and can think for himself without McDaniels breathing down his neck.
This is the Broncos' chance to prove they will again be a competitive football team, it all begins with the draft and developing players, and everything is on the line Thursday night at 6:00 p.m. MDT.
Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist actively seeking a career in journalism. Along with being the CSU Rams Examiner, Kurtzman is a Denver Nuggets and NBA Featured Columnist for bleacherreport.com, the Colorado/Utah Regional Correspondent for stadiumjourney.com, a weekly contributor to milehighhoops.com and a contributor to milehighreport.com writing on the Denver Broncos.
Rich also heads up PR for K-Biz and Beezy, a Colorado-based rap group.
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