Broncos State of the Roster: Defensive Tackles

Jared Wickerham

In this second part of our "Be the Broncos GM" series, we take a look at defensive tackleposition, and Denver's State of the Roster. How did Broncos defensive tackles perform in 2013? Who is under contract in 2014? Who's hungry for some Pot Roast?

2013 Roster: Sione Fua, Malik Jackson*, Terrance Knighton, Kevin Vickerson, Sylvester Williams

2014 Broncos free agents: Mitch Unrein

Here is a quick look at the Broncos roster from 2013 and what their future holds for the 2014 season.

*Although he's listed at defensive end, I include Malik Jackson in this list since he spent more time at DT than he did at DE this season. It's always possible that may change based on Denver's need at defensive end in 2014, however.

Salary Cap Hits

Cap figures via spotrac.com.

Player Pos. Base Salary Signing Bonus Other Bonus Dead Money Cap Figure
Terrance Knighton DT 1,500,000 250,000 1,000,000 -250,000 2,750,000
Kevin Vickerson DT 1,250,000 500,000 750,000 -500,000 2,500,000
Sylvester Williams DT 749,625 973,500 - -4,764,375 1,723,125
Sione Fua DT 645,000 - - - 625,000
Malik Jackson DE/DT 570,000 53,403 - -106,806 623,403*

2014 Defensive End Cap Hit: $7,618,125 (not counting M Jackson, since we included his cap in DE)

Projected 2014 Cap Space: Between $6 and $20 million

Snap Counts

*This is a sortable table, click on the heading to sort*

Name 2014 Status Snaps % of Total Season Snaps
Fua, S Roster 12 1.0%
Jackson, M Roster 600 48.9%
Knighton, T Roster 604 49.2%
Unrein, M FA 357 29.1%
Vickerson, K Roster 402 32.8%
Williams, S Roster 301 24.5%

Total Production

This table looks at how often a player rushed the passer and how many sacks, hits and hurries they generated along with the number of holding penalties they drew on passing plays. My numbers come from 5 sources:

- ESPN
- Pro Football Focus
- Football Outsiders
- The NFL's official data
- My own count

I then average them together so one source doesn't bias the sample and we get a better picture, especially when it comes to hurries since those are very subjective. Also, sacks may be a bit off from what many think, but this is because all half sacks are converted into a whole sack. Other players either gain or lose sacks since the NFL is well known for give players who never touched the QB sacks and ignoring those who actually help bring the QB down.

*This is a sortable table, click on the heading to sort*

Name Pass Rushing Snaps Sacks Hits Hurries
Drawn Holds
Total
Fua, S 3 0 0 0 0 0
Jackson, M 387 6 8 29 3 46
Knighton, T 317 4 5 25 1 35
Unrein, M 187 0 3 10 1 14
Vickerson, K 235 1 1 15 1 18
Williams, S 170 2 2 8 1 13

These are the raw numbers; now let's compare something meaningful.

2013 Per Snap Production

Pass Rushing Productivity (PRP) is created by taking total pressures divided by total pass rushing snaps to get a percentage. Weighted PRP takes into account that whiles pressures, hits and forced holds are valuable, sacks are more valuable. The value for a sack is 1.2, a hit is .8, a pressure is .7, and a holding penalty is worth .6. This may seem arbitrary but it’s created by looking at how many yards are lost and completion percentage going down in each situation. It supported by what many NFL teams already do.

Their rank compared to other defensive tackles in the league is then listed, this way we can compare the Broncos defensive tackles pass rushing ability against their peers. On that note I'm ranking those who had zero pressures as 100 because it's arbitrary, puts them at the bottom and I want to.

*This is a sortable table, click on the heading to sort*

Name Pass Rushing Snaps Total Pressures
PRP% Rank
Weighted PRP
Fua, S 3 0 0.0% 100 9.22%
Jackson, M 387 46 11.89% 2 8.49%
Knighton, T 317 35 11.04% 3 5.35%
Unrein, M 187 14 7.49% 17 5.57%
Vickerson, K 235 18 7.66% 14 6.00%
Williams, S 170 13 7.65% 15 0.00%

Wrapping Up:

As with the defensive ends, the defensive tackles did an underrated job as pass rushers, especially since that isn't their main job. Looking toward 2014, the best part is the Broncos are getting Kevin Vickerson back from injury and only losing Mitch Unrein. If the Broncos can add another depth player at defensive tackle, they are sitting pretty with a solid defensive line that can both rush the passer and shut down the run. While it isn't a strong defensive tackle market this off-season, there are some solid options (besides re-signing Unrein) such as Randy Starks, Tony McDaniel, and Pat Sims.

Something to keep in mind is that the Broncos use an incredibly heavy rotation along the entire defensive line, so signing a big name defensive tackle to a huge contract likely doesn't make sense under the scheme Del Rio is running currently. Plus, Pot Roast is one of the biggest names among defensive tackles in the NFL these days anyway.

We'll do our due diligence and explore defensive tackle options in free agency and the draft throughout the day, but the Broncos appear to be sitting pretty (that is to say, they are sitting ugly) at defensive tackle for 2014.

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