What's up fellow Mile High Reporters.... I know it's been a while since I created a fanpost, but now that the lockout is supposedly ending, I've been in full time pondering mode on what direction our D should take and what steps the FO can take in free agency to help remedy some of the weaker, problem areas. As we all know, our team is in dire need of a couple D Tackles... other than that, I'm pretty sure we can get by with what we already have... if we have to (for this year at least, cause there's not much time for a FA to learn the playbook). Follow me after the jump for an in depth look at what we can do to fix this turnstile of a D (keeping the same D Coordinator for more than one year would be a great start) and recreate a new Orange Crush D!!!!!!
Special Note: Undrafted College Free Agents will appear at the end of the lists in bold & italics....
Elvis Dumervil - Okay guys, I know some of you are distraught with the idea that Doom is MUCH better prepared to be a 3-4 outside backer, and now he has to go back to playing with his hand in the dirt as a 4-3 end. Well people, I am happy to inform you that in three years worth of playing exclusively as a 43 DE, Elvis accumulated 26 sacks, not to mention several hurries and hits. Doom is a one of a kind, freak of nature who gets after that QB with passion. He is built low to the ground, but with freakishly long arms which helps him win the leverage battle 9 times out of 10. I am also inclined to believe that Foxy is going to move him and Von Miller around A BUNCH, and will utilize both of their god given abilities as pure pass rushing, outside backers on passing downs. Do not fret for Doom, he will be a cornerstone in the new, improved Orange Crush!!!!
Robert Ayers - Welcome back home to your natural position of D-Lineman Robert Ayers. I fully believe (as do many others) that given some time, Robert Ayers will be a pillar of our new D. He may not be the flashiest player to ever don the orange and blue, but you can't have a football team with all chiefs (just ask the Redskins).... you must have some indians as well. Robert will be one of those players who is essential to other player's success. He will tie up some blockers so Von and Doom can wreak some havok. As Mike Mayock said the year Ayers was drafted... he may not be a super-stud right away, but in a few years, people will come to see that he was one of the premier defenders from that class. Ayers may end up playing some DT on 3rd downs as well.... just something to keep an eye on.
Mario Haggan - I called this one a while back. Haggan played DE in college, and with his immense leadership skills, special teams worth, and hard working attitude, he will fit right in on the line. I think he makes the team and I feel like his transition back to 4-3 DE will be a seamless one. Once again, not a super-stud, but a worker bee at it's finest (football teams are made of these).
Jeremy Beal - If Jeremy Beal had a better Senior Bowl and ran a better 40 time at the combine, we could possibly be talking about a 2nd round pick here. The thing is.... some fellas are just football players and come alive when the bullets start flying (Tebow). Beal is a hard, no nonsense worker, who is high up in the annals of Oklahoma defensive stats (2nd all time in sacks and tackles for a loss). He may not be a quick on his feet speedster, but we already have that in Doom and Von Miller. I say he sticks on the squad and proves to be an awesome value pick in the low 7th.
Jason Hunter - Personally, I like Hunter, but I'm kind of indifferent on whether he makes the squad or not. He did prove some worth last year, and he can make some plays, but we'll see if he can round out this depth chart or not. Once again, a hard working, team dude who makes up the guts of a football team.
Free Agent Options - Jason Babin (TEN), Mathias Kiwanuka (NYG), Charles Johnson (CAR), Ray Edwards (MIN), Anthony Hargrove (NO), Andre Carter (WAS), Raheem Brock (SEA), Vernon Gholston (NYJ), Dave Ball (TEN), Travis LaBoy (SF), Jayme Mitchell (CLE), Ray McDonald (SF), Marcus Benard (CLE), Turk McBride (DET), Jacob Ford (TEN), Stylez G. White (TB), Dave Tollefson (NYG), Ugo Chinasa (Oklahoma State), Ryan Winterswyk (Boise State), Pierre Allen (Nebraska), DeQuin Evans (Kentucky), Stephen Friday (Virginia Tech)....
My Take - I personally think we're set at DE but it could go either way. The staff may see us as set at DE, or they may make a move or two. If we do indeed make a move, my bet is Charles Johnson from Carolina, for obvious reasons. Jason Babin, Andre Carter are also interesting options here, if we do decide to let Haggan or another go.
Kevin Vickerson - Thank goodness we have at least retained one servicable DT for the new squad. For what it's worth, I think Big Vick played admirably for a guy picked up after pre season and asked to start at a position he'd never played before. When we picked him up, I remember McD saying in a presser that he was shocked Big Vick was let go and we were able to pick him up... supposedly he was having a killer pre season. Big Vick will make the team, and be a nice DT #2. If we can compliment him with a penetrator, then his job will be much easier. This guy has the heart of a lion and is cut from the mold of what we want on this new Orange Crush.... a fierce competitor, a hard worker, and one who never stops until that whistle is blown. Big Vick can be the immovable earth to a newly signed 3-tech's fire (like Coefield or Mebane). If nothing else, Vickerson is a good goal line DT who is very capable of punching a hole through an O-Line and taking on multiple blockers.
Free Agent Options - Marcus Thomas (DEN), Ryan McBean (DEN), Albert Haynesworth (WAS), Barry Coefield (NYG), Brandon Mebane (SEA), Cullen Jenkins (GB), Alan Branch (ARI), Shaun Ellis (NYJ), Aubrayo Franklin (SF), Stephen Bowen (DAL), Mike Patterson (PHI), Shaun Smith (KC), Pat Williams (MIN), Marcus Spears (DAL), Justin Bannan (DEN), Anthony Adams (CHI), Ron Edwards (KC), Kenyon Coleman (CLE), Tommie Harris (CHI), Kris Jenkins (NYJ), Tony McDaniel (SF), Remi Ayodele (NO), Antonio Johnson (IND), Robaire Smith (CLE), Gerrard Warren (NE), John McCargo (BUF), Ian Williams (Notre Dame), Cedric Thornton (Southern Arkansas), Martin Parker (Richmond), Brandon Bair (Oregon), Sealver Siliga (Utah)...
My Take - I say we make resiging Marcus Thomas a TOP priority. He was a super young rookie who is just now coming into his own (25 years old), and a move back to his natural position of penetrating 3-tech is exactly what could put him over the top. Correct me if I'm wrong, but Marcus Thomas had the best year of his young career in 2010... who knows how much better he could be with yet another year under under his belt and a favorable opportunity to play his natural position. We have the luxury of paying top dollar for either Coefield, Mebane, Haynesworth, or Jenkins, because through this last draft, we narrowed our defensive needs down pretty well. I say we resign Marcus Thomas (if for a rotational guy and nothing else), and then go out and sign Brandon Mebane / Alan Branch for a nice duo of young DT's. Mebane would be a nice disruptor and Branch would be a nice lane clogger - BOOM, we are now set at this position until we can focus more on it in the next few years of drafting. I really wish the Pats didn't sign Marcus Stroud.... I think he could've been a nice pickup for our club. Fat Albert and/or Tommie Harris may be worth the risk as well - I also like the pairing of Kris Jenkins and Mike Patterson. I would trade away the rights to three 1st rounders for Haloti Ngata (keep on dreamin' brother).
DJ Williams - Once again, a player who is moving back home to his more natural position as a WILL backer in a 43 defense. Many of us were getting pretty agro with DJ moving around from year to year (even though that's had to help him learn the game of football). DJ was not a 3-4 inside backer, as he lacked the aggression, instincts, and raw power needed for the position. What DJ doesn't have as an ILB, he makes up for it in spades as a 4-3 WILL. He is a rangy athlete, capable of covering lots of ground in an instant. He is not a downhill thumper type of guy, but DJ is a sure tackler - when clean from blockers and able to fly to the football. He will fit in beautifully in Foxy's 4-3, and he has just enough pass rush skills to be a versatile player for us in that front seven. His coverage skills will be much improved as well, now that we have moved away from the lumbering, slower type LB's..... simply put, DJ will no longer be the only starting LB on the team who can cover, nor will he have to do everyone else's job in that department. Like John Fox said - "DJ Williams is the least of my worries."
Also in Play - Dominic Douglas... meh.
My Take - Resiging Wes Woodyard should be another transaction at the top of the "must do" list. He is a great coverage LB who can cover lots of ground, a sideline to sideline roamer, and a sure tackler, when clean. Wesley has also been a special teams captain, and here's a common theme you're going to keep seeing in this article - he is part of a promising young core of Bronco special teamers who, I feel, could blossom into something very special one day (Prater is going to be a BEAST). I personally think if we resign Woodyard, then we are set at this position.
Nate Irving - Young .... check!!! Smart .... check!!! Uber-productive in college .... check!!! Versatile.... once again, check!!! Nate Irving, as Bill Parcells said in his TV draft special, was "THE BEST" 4-3 Mike backer prospect in this years draft class. I for one am thrilled we got him. This guy is unusually mature for his age, and he had some wicked numbers last year (even though he wasn't fully recovered from his nasty car accident the year before). The sky is the limit for this cat and I think he can be Foxy's new Jon Beason for the middle of this D. The dude had seven or eight sacks last year as a Mike.... the new Orange Crush is going to generate pressure from everywhere!!!
Joe Mays - IMO, Joe Mays was a steal of a pickup from the McD era. JJ Arington for Mike Tyson... get real!!! Even if Joe doesn't start, he will be essential to the rotation as a true downhill thumper who can come down in the hole and smash heads. When Joe Mays was in the lineup, you could see people thinking twice about going over the middle - his footsteps can be heard for miles. Joe Mays is also one helluva special teamer, and his ferocious laying of wood on returns is an intimidating thing to behold (just ask Moeaki). So, once again, I think we are set at a position on our D.
Mike Mohamed - Another great rotational player for our new D. Hard working, no nonsense guy.... are we seeing a trend here... I think so. Mohamed could be the first guy off the bench for every LB position - that is a nice asset to have and it's probably why he was drafted. I also think he will round out a pretty good young core of special teamers. Mohamed also gives us another nice coverage backer - something we were severely lacking last year.
Also in Play - Braxton Kelley... once again, meh (even though my buddy who is a Kentucky Wildcat fan says different).
Free Agent Options - Stephen Tulloch (TEN), David Harris (NYJ), Paul Posluszny (BUF), Kevin Burnett (SD), Kirk Morrison (JAX), Stewart Bradley (PHI), Stephen Cooper (SD), Takeo Spikes (SF), Barrett Ruud (TB), Jameel McClain (BAL), Dhani Jones (CIN), Eric Barton (CLE), Kevin Bentley (HOU), Mark Herzlich (Boston College), Scott Lutrus (Connecticut), Nick Bellore (Central Michigan)....
My Take - Stay put and see what we have here... DT is much more important in the talent pool. If anything, bring in Herzlich or another UFA (or a low tier FA) to compete. Takeo Spikes may have a couple more years left in the tank, and he would be a nice backup for the right price if Joe Mays can't catch on to the new system. Barrett Ruud, Stewart Bradley, or Kirk Morrison could work here too.
Von Miller - I was upset at first that we didn't nab Marcel Dareus at #2 overall in the draft - however, after turning it over and over in my dome, Von Miller was the only way to go. This kid is EVERYTHING one could dream of and hope for in a football player.... defensive QB and leader (Ray Lewis), blinding fast for a LB (Patrick Willis), the ability to lock down a TE (Brian Urlacher), and the pass rush skills of no other in this draft (Derrick Thomas). Von Miller graded out as fast as some NFL WR's and CB's (he has comparable speed to Larry Fitzgerald + the hit power of Demarcus Ware), and I personally think that he's one of those rare players who comes around once every 15 years or so. Great job Elway, Fox, and Xanders for sticking to the BPA formula and nabbing this freak of nature for the Orange Crush 2.0!!!! Von Miller, along with Doom, will be moved all over the field (4-3 DE, 3-4 OLB, 4-3 OLB), and he is a mismatch just waiting to happen. I feel really, really, extremely good about this pick... and where Dareus would've been a good pick, he is nowhere near as dominant as Ndamakong Suh... who was an exceptional pick. Von Miller will be equal to Suh in talent / production, so I view him as a GREAT pick. Moving on....
Mike Mohamed - See above...
Also in Play - Lee Robinson, Mario Haggan (???)
Free Agent Options - James Anderson (CAR), Chad Greenway (MIN), Quincy Black (TB), Stephen Nicholas (ATL), Manny Lawson (SF), Pisa Tinoisamoa (CHI), Leroy Hill (SEA), Danny Clark (NO), Keith Bulluck (NYG), Julian Peterson (DET), David Thornton (TEN)....
My Take - You guys are probably sick of seeing me type this, but once again, I think we are set on the strongside. We may possibly pick up a lower tier free agent if Mohamed doesn't impress. Peterson or Bulluck would be nice for cheaper, veteran backups, if we truly feel the need.
Champ Bailey - I want to start this off by saying "thank you" to John Elway, John Fox, and Mr. Brian Xanders for getting this darn thing done. Champ started off his Hall of Fame career as a Redskin, but he is Mr. Denver Bronco. I couldn't imagine us letting him slip through the cracks and waste a draft pick on Patrick Peterson or Prince Amukamara (even though I feel both will be darn good football players). Champ Bailey, even at his ripe old age, is the complete freakin' package as a CB (ballhawk, instincts, smarts, coverage in man & zone, tackling, leadership, professionalism). In a couple years, if his production / skills as a #1 Corner decline, then he can easily move to all purpose DB, play center field, and still never leave the action. Thank God we have a smart, diligent front office now, and they knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Champ was beneficial to this young defenses success.
Perrish Cox - This is all dependant upon his legal problems. Even if Cox is found guilty, I think the front office will give him one more chance. By saying that, I want all who read this to know that I in no way, shape, or form, condone sexual abuse, but I am also the first person to believe in 2nd chances (Lord knows I've needed them throughout my life as a young man). If Perrish can overcome this obstacle, I wholeheartedly believe he can be a good #2, possibly even a good #1 CB, taking the reigns from Champ one fateful day. In his short tenure with our Broncos, Perrish has shown that he has some serious skill in the D backfield.... now, he just has to show us that he's a full grown man who's not afraid to cry (Beck). This is a player with tremendous special teams value as well, and that will be taken into account by the FO.
Andre Goodman - What a 1st year campaign Goody had for our ball club in 2009!!! Playing opposite Champ is no easy task, and Goody helped round out one of the more nasty secondaries in the NFL that year (#3 overall in pass D). We're talking about a heady vet with good ball skills and a team first mentality here. Had he not been injured most of the year, I feel like Goody would've repeated his 2009 success, and a few less plays would've gone the oppositions way - in return, possibly giving us a couple more wins to the final tally. I know Goody would be hella expensive for a 3rd corner, but he gives us much needed insurance for a year or two with all the uncertainty surrounding Cox. If Perrish Cox remains unscathed, I say Goodman will make a great nickel corner, and his ballhawking / pass defending ways will fit right in with what Dennis Allen plans to achieve on that side of the ball. This is another dude that we can honestly say was one of McD's better decisions, personnel-wise. Here's to a healthy Andre' Goodman in 2011. P.S. sorry Dre' Bly, we got the better Dre' out of the deal.
Syd'Quan Thompson - Does anyone love Squid as much as I do? Oh, you do? I can see why. This kid came in as a 7th rounder and not only made the cut, but he straight up opened eyes from day one (pre season)... all the way down to the last few games (think Houston). Honestly, this kid reminds me of Darrent Williams (RIP) in many ways. He has a nose for the football... he's feisty.... he's a nice return man.... he never gives up.... and he does all this despite his short stature. One thing we can honestly say about Joshie McD - he knows a DB when he see's one (that's right, even Alphonso Smith, who could become a playmaking beast for Detroit). I don't see how Syd'Quan doesn't make our squad this year. Once again, a player who could form a nasty young special teams core.
Cassius Vaughn - Same as Squid above, Cassius Vaughn was an afterthought in the 2010 NFL draft. Despite him being almost forgotten, Cassius did nothing but excite the fans of Denver with his ferocious play. Even if he never fully develops as a CB, Cassius has immense worth as a return man / gunner in the kicking game. What a steal as an UFA, and thank you McD for once again scouting some obscure DB talent.
Also in Play - Chevis Jackson (young dude - has some upside), Nate Jones (no thanks, but thanks).
Free Agent Options - Nnamdi Asomugha (OAK), Johnathan Joseph (CIN), Chris Carr (BAL), Brandon Carr (KC), Josh Wilson (BAL), Brent Grimes (ATL), Ike Taylor (PIT), Chris Houston (DET), Kelly Jennings (SEA), Eric Wright (CLE), Carlos Rogers (WAS), Antonio Cromartie (NYJ), Richard Marshall (CAR), Fabian Washington (BAL), Drayton Florence (BUF), Phillip Buchanon (WAS), Brian Williams (ATL), Lito Sheppard (MIN), William Gay (PIT), Kendric Burney (North Carolina), .
My Take - I personally think we stay put, but they may see Goody as too expensive and Perrish may get into a heap of trouble, so.... a lower tier guy like Marshall (Fox knows this player), or an aged Lito Sheppard, may be needed here (depending upon Perrish Cox). Any way you look at it, this isn't a bad core of CB's (I feel like it's the 2nd or 3rd strongest core on the team). Kendric Burney is an super intriguing option in the rookie free agent pool.
Brian "Weapon X" Dawkins - If everyone in this world came to the plate with the passion of Brian Dawkins, there would be no world hunger, no defecit, no crime, but especially no backstabbing, cause everyone would be scared to death they would be hit like a freight train by the one they talked smack about. But then again, the smack talkers could back their SH up too..... so..... touche I guess. Anyway, is B Dawk at the end of his rope as a starting NFL Safety - probably. Is B Dawk still invaluable to a team for his leadership, mentoring, instincts, and in-the-box - run stuffing skills.... most definitely. B Dawk stays on the team for another year (or two?) and helps us do a twofold thing here: he mentors our excellent young core of Safeties, and he helps strike fear into opposing offenses with his bone crunching hit power. Love this guy like he's been a career Bronco!!!! "TAAAAKE IIIIIIIITTTT!!!!!!"
Renaldo Hill - Let's face it, Naldy hasn't been a bad player for our beloved Broncos. In fact, 2009 was a darn good year for the heady veteran Safety. However, since we drafted two more young, promising Safeties to go along with the other two that were already here, I'd say his time is pretty much up. Even though I was pretty peeved about the Jets loss last year, I think Renaldo Hill will still make a ball club somewhere and be a nice contributor. Thanks for your blood, sweat, and tears Mr. Hill.
Rahim Moore - I wasn't thriled with this pick at first, to be honest (even though the writing was on the wall... with every mock draft site in the country slotting him to us with our first 2nd rounder). However, after having some time to hash it out in my head, I think that Moore is exactly what the doctor ordered for a defense who's had problems generating turnovers (like ours did in 2010). I'm pretty sure that Moore reminds Dennis Allen of a young Darren Sharper-like player, and his ball hawking / centerfielding ways are exactly what we need to give our young offense some more opportunities to score (plus it gives our D a better chance to score). I've heard some people locally knock Moore for his below average forty time at the combine, but everything I've read + what I've personally seen from the game tape, suggests different. Everything I've seen says this dude has elite closing / recovery speed, great burst / explosion, wideout hands, and nice coverage skills. He also knows what to do with the football when it's in his hands. Yes, I am now extremely happy about this pick and you should be too.
Quinton Carter - Ahh, another young, promising Safety to add to a once talent depleted core. Since this years focus in the NFL draft was on D-Lineman (namely DT's) it seems that Xanders and Co. stocked up on the best players of other, perceived to be weaker positions (Linebackers, Safeties, Tight Ends). By my account, we grabbed the #1 and #2 ranked Safeties on the board, arguably the best 4-3 Mike Backer on the board, not to mention some crazy talented, highly ranked TE's to round it all out. Von Miller goes without saying cause he'd have extreme value on the best pass rushing team in football, let alone the crappiest one (unfortunately..... US). Carter brings a lot to the table - he can play both Safety positions, he can play the run and the pass equally well (well rounded, balanced guy), he's a very smart fellow, and he's a great leader. Correct if I'm wrong ladies and gents, but I heard somewhere that only two of the players we drafted this year were not team leaders for their respective college squads. Moore and Carter (also McBath and Bruton) will learn a ton from Bailey and B Dawk. I cannot wait for these young men to come into their own!!!!
Darcel McBath - As many of you who know me have found out by now, I'm not McBath's (or Darcel Mc "ice" Bath, as I like to facetiously call him) biggest fan in the world. That doesn't mean, however, that I want him to fail and wouldn't be ecstatic if he panned out. I just, simply put, don't trust McBath, and I'm still kinda sore about McD picking him as high as we did when there were a few front seven players that I feel would have been better suited to our needs. McBath does have some serious skill though.... the only problem.... so far, the dude seems like he's made of glass. I know that going up against Mike Crabtree and that offense at Texas Tech, every practice, couldn't have hurt Darcel as a player. He has potential as a coverage, ball hawking DB, but I need to see much more. If we keep five Safeties, he's fine. If not, I'm torn on who we keep between him and David Bruton (assuming Renaldo Hill is gone). Once again, this is a player that has real good special teams value and makes up, what I feel will one day be, a good to great core in the kicking game.
David Bruton - I really, really like this kid. What David Bruton lacks in change of direction skills, he more than makes up for it with size, smarts, and blazing straight line speed. As Josh McDaniels and Brian Xanders have alluded to, Bruton was hands down the best gunner in the nation as a Fighting Irishman. He may never be a starting caliber Safety, but he is an absolute mismatch in the kicking game, and he is a super smart, hard working, football loving guy. You can never have enough of those types of players.... just ask the Patriots. Remember, Denver needs a great special teams too, they can win (or lose - CHARGERS) games on their own. Strange fact here... we have all of Notre Dame's team leaders from a few years back on our team now (Brady Quinn, Ryan Harris, David Bruton).
Free Agent Options - Darren Sharper (NO), Eric Weddle (SD), Dawan Landry (BAL), Danieal Manning (CHI), Quintin Mikell (PHI), Michael Huff (OAK), Gerald Sensabaugh (DAL), Donte Whitner (BUF), Dashon Goldson (SF), Roman Harper (NO), Brodney Pool (NYJ), Atari Bigby (GB), Melvin Bullitt (IND), Tom Zbikowski (BAL), Bernard Pollard (HOU), Abram Elam (CLE), Courtney Greene (JAX), Paul Oliver (SD), Roy Williams (CIN), Corey Lynch (TB), DeAndre McDaniel (Clemson), Deunta Williams (North Carolina), Joe Lefeged (Rutgers), Jerrard Tarrant (Georgia Tech), Jeron Johnson (Boise State)....
My Take - We have too much invested in our Safety core to do a whole lot of moving here. The only way we sign someone is if Dawk, Hill, and/or McBath/Bruton are given their walking papers. In such a case, a heady vet would be desperately needed, possibly Sharper reunited with his old coach. My two cents, we stay put (even though there are some intriguing options in that college free agent pool).
In summation, I really feel like we went a long ways forward in fixing our ailing D, starting at the top with John Fox and Dennis Allen. I know not all of you will agree with my analysis, but to each is own. Stay tuned in the near future for my offensive segment with the same objective. Peace out my friends!!!!