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Defensive Identity and The Future of the Broncos Defense

Our defense has been rough for the last few years and has definitely lacked identity.  I think the guys have an idea of what they want from our defense and I wanted to examine some of the offseason additions and a little history of Fox and Allen in hopes to figure out what kind of defense we can look forward to in the near future. 

Looking Ahead:

 

After examining the draft and taking some time to think about the two guys running our defense I have come to a couple conclusions.  To me it looks like our model of defense for the future is going to be focused on a few key areas.

1) Speed:  Fast guys in open space.

2) Character: Guys with a team mentality and the right attitude.

3) Scheme: Pressure and creating turnovers.

After reviewing the draft it should be no surprise that we took the defensive players we did.  Fox has always liked talented DEs and LBs while Allen was the DB coach on a defense that put emphasis on creating pressure and turnovers.   We already have one great RDE and another with good potential at LDE therefore we were left with glaring needs at LB and S and the guys stayed true to their board and ended up taking 3 LBs and 2 Ss.  Seems like a little overkill but we got some real solid players and may not have to address either of those positions for a long time. 

1) Speed, especially at the LB position, is incredibly important and, I believe, was completely overlooked by the last regime.  You can't tackle the guy if you can't get there.  The draft has instantly upgraded the speed of the guys running around in open space.  We will now have 3 fast LBs and 2 speedy safeties that will be able to close on RBs and cover the deep end of the field.  Last year DJ was our only LB with closing speed and Dawkins is slowing down and proved to be somewhat of a liability in coverage. With a collaboration of guys that are athletic and quick enough to get to the ball I think we will see less guys(DJ and Champ) trying to make up for the other guys who just couldn't get the job one and an overall improvement in production from each player on the defense.

2) Character: I also believe that character and attitude is incredibly important on defense and its something we have been lacking as an overall unit.  In order to be successful the defense must play together and have a lights out mentality.  The one thing I have noticed is that the guys we grabbed this year were either leaders on their college defenses and/or possess a team-first mentality. .  Having a number of guys working together on every level as a team will be one of the big differences we see this year.  Also, we need a leader on defense, especially because this may be Dawkins final year.  I have a feeling that Miller and Irving will end up being our defensive leaders of the future and I couldn't be more excited. I also noticed that all of these guys seem pumped to be Broncos and have the right, aggressive attitude to be great players.  They want to get out there and "wreak havoc" as Nate Irving said.  These guys will have each others back and bring some energy and destruction to our defense that has been lacking since Al Wilson left.

3) Scheme: I have always been a believer that having the right coach/coordinator that knows defense can make a huge difference and we all know Fox turned the 3rd worst defense into a top ten defense his first year at Carolina and I don't see why that is not possible here(at least a top 15 D). Looking at these guys it seems we have put an emphasis on creating pressure and turnovers and that our defense may be a combination of the turnover happy Saints D of a couple of years ago and the speedy, pressure creating D of Fox's style.  If we can collect a couple of stout DTs in FA I think this D will really surprise some people and we could have a greatly improved unit.  Either way, I have a feeling the defensive side of the ball will be exciting to watch next year with Von Doom flying at QBs and our DBs sitting back and waiting to make the big play. Turnovers are huge. Not only do they create points for your team and take away points from the opponent, they can swing momentum and drastically and change an entire game.  I can honestly say that I am all in if this is what we are going for next year.  .

Analyzing the Pasts of Fox and Allen:

 

I wanted to get a simple overview of the past performance of the defenses of Fox and Allen to see if what I found might shed some light on what kind of defense we will see next year and how they have related to the success of their respective teams.  No real crazy statistics, just the simple stuff, and you can read into them how you like.

Panthers Defense

Broncos

Differential

Year

Overall Rankings(pts/yards)

Record

Sacks

T/Os

Sacks

T/Os

Sacks

T/Os

2002

5/2

7-9

52

33

40

22

12

11

2003

10/8

11-5(SB Appearance)

40

26

35

20

5

6

2004

15/20

7-9

34

38

38

20

-4

18

2005

5/3

11-5(NFC Championship)

45

42

27

36

18

6

2006

8/7

8-8

41

22

36

30

5

-8

2007

15/16

7-9

23

30

33

30

-10

0

2008

12/18

12-4(NFC Divisional)

37

25

26

13

11

12

2009

9/8

8-8

31

37

39

30

-8

7

2010

26/18

2-14

31

29

23

18

8

11

Overall Average

11.7/11.1

8-8

37.11

31.33

33.00

24.33

4.11

7.00

3 yr average

15.7/14.7

5-11

33.00

30.33

29.33

20.33

3.67

10.00

Saints Defense

Broncos

Panthers

Year

Overall Rankings(pts/yards)

Record

Sacks

T/Os

Sacks

T/Os

Sacks

T/Os

2008

26/23

8-8

28

22

26

13

37

25

2009

20/25

13-3 (Won Superbowl)

35

39

39

30

31

37

2010

7/4

11-5(NFC Wild Card)

33

25

23

18

31

29

Average

17.7/17.3

11-5

32

28.66667

29.33333

20.33333

33

30.33333

The biggest things that I noticed between Fox's Panthers Defenses is that 6 out of the 9 years they had more sacks, 3 of those years they had a double digit advantage over the Broncos, and 8 out of the 9 years they had more turnovers, 4 of them being a double digit advantage over the Broncos.  In the 9 year comparison of Fox's D to the Broncos, the averages weren't as staggering of a difference as I would have imagined: only 4 more a year in sacks and 7 more in turnovers for Fox's D.  What I did find was that even with the 30 Turnovers for the Broncos in 2009 they are still averaged10 less turnovers a year than the Panthers in the last 3 years. 

It is a little hard to judge what may come of Allen's influence on the D because there is really only 3 years to evaluate and he wasn't the coordinator.  Obviously, the 39 turnovers in 2009 was pretty impressive, especially because the Saints didn't rack up crazy sack numbers, a respectable but not outstanding 35 sacks, and much of that could be contributed to Allen's defensive backs, but with only a few years to evaluate and just 22 and 25 turnovers the other years we can't be sure.  Either way, the Saints did average nearly 29 turnovers per year while Allen was the defensive backs coach and that is 8 better than the Broncos in the same 3 year span.

Super Bowl Defenses:

Year

SB Winner

Rankings(Defensive T/Os)

Sacks

T/Os

 Overall Rankings(pts/yards)

2001

Patriots

8

41

35

                           6/24

2002

Buccaneers

3

43

38

                           1/1

2003

Patriots

2

41

41

                           1/7

2004

Patriots

4

45

36

                           2/9

2005

Steelers

11

47

30

                           3/4

2006

Colts

21

25

26

                         23/21

2007

Giants

22

53

25

                         17/7

2008

Steelers

9

51

29

                          1/1

2009

Saints

2

35

39

                        20/25

2010

Packers

6

47

32

                         2/5

Average

 

9

42.8

33.1

                      7.6/10.3

In addition, I thought I would examine the Sack and Turnover rankings and stats of the past 10 Super Bowl Champions.  I found that the average Super Bowl winning team was ranked 9th in defensive turnovers with just over 33 and averaged a whopping 42.8 sacks a year (just a couple more than our 2010 Broncos...).  7 of the 10 teams were ranked in the top 10 and 4 in the top 5. The teams that didn't were the 05 Steelers (barely missed the top 10), the 06 Colts (who cares when Peyton is running your offense), and the 07 Giants (I still don't know how they won that Super Bowl).  Only 2 SB teams racked up less than 40 sacks and only 3 teams produced less than 30 turnovers.  I think it is safe to say that creating pressure and turnovers is a solid way to build a Super Bowl defense.

I also found that 7 of the 10 Super Bowl teams had a top 10 defense based on points against.  So while a top 10 defense is not mandatory to win a Super Bowl it seems one of the most common factors (along with great QB play).  The only exceptions were the Giants who somehow found a way to win games win it mattered, the Colts who had a phenomenal offense, and the Saints who had a great offense and ranked #2 in turnovers proving the defense was better than the traditional rankings.  The correlation between turnover rankings and pts rankings is hard to ignore.  The only outlier seems to be the 2009 Saints team.  Fox and Allen failed to show consistency in pts and yards rankings so I do have some concern in that area based on the past, but my hope is that we can create a pressure focused, turnover oriented defense and the overall performance will fall into place.

Conclusions:

 

If you go by the stats it looks like the Broncos could average between 35-40 sacks a year and around 30 turnovers, a significant improvement from what we have seen recently.  I don't believe it is unrealistic to think that there could be a year or two where the defense can perform to the "Super Bowl" levels we have seen in the past 10 years especially because I think the defensive emphasis will be on sacks and turnovers more than anything else.  Neither Fox's Panthers nor Allen's time with the Saints proved to average a top 10 defense based on points and yards rankings but they definitely racked up the sacks and created turnovers, something that looks like a pretty good recipe for winning.

Overall, players, character and scheme all combine into an identity. You want the type of players that play the way you want them to and fit the scheme you are trying to execute.  It looks the FO is looking for guys to fit the aggressive identity we want to have on defense.  I think the goal is to have fast, athletic guys who will be able to create pressure and turnovers as a collective unit and it looks like we have a good start to putting together a group of guys who can create some havoc for the opposing offense and produce a winning defense.

GO BRONCOS!!

Stats From:

www.pro-football-reference.com

This is a Fan-Created Comment on MileHighReport.com. The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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