Before diving into the Defensive End position I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who has provided feedback on the series so far. Your thoughts and opinions, whether in agreement with my views or not, has been tremendous and I wanted to thank everyone. This is truly a labor of love and like Goose in Top Gun, I'd write these pieces without you, I hate it but I'd do it, you guys and gals just make it a lot more fun. Now on to Part 4.
The inability of the Broncos defensive line to get to the quarterback with any consistency has been the theme to the off-season so far. A couple days ago we broke down the defensive tackles, and all the new faces on the interior. Today, it is the outside of the defensive line and who the Broncos are going to look for to get pressure on the opposing quarterback. Jim Bates has a track record of producing sack machines along the line and it's the hope of the team and fans alike that he can take someone from this group and turn them into the next Trace Armstrong or better yet, Jason Taylor. Here are the suspects -
John Engelberger(6-4, 252) --
Engelberger is the type of guy every team needs. Not a super star or Pro Bowler, just a solid professional that comes to work every day with his hard hat and lunch pail. When the Broncos acquired Engelberger from the 49'ers few expected him to remain for very long. His motor and work ethic have changed all that and now, heading into his third season as a Bronco, Engelberger has become a solid member of the D-End rotation. A former 2nd round pick of the Niners, Engelberger's 31 tackles last season were among his career best proving when given some time on the field he can contribute. Engelberger is not really a pass rush threat but remains solid in the run game, and is the type of player that when used correctly can give a boost to the defense. There will always be room for guys like this on my team and I am glad to have him around even if he isn't a flashy superstar.
Ebenezar Ekuban(6-4, 275) --
When I broke down the DT's, I made mention that the "Browncos" experiment, which it is so often called, had to be considered a failure. While overall I still fell that way I can't ignore the contributions of two former members of the Browns that have actually had a positive impact on the Broncos, starting with Ekuban. Overall, the 2006 season was a disappointment for the Broncos but one bright spot was the play of Ekuban, who collected a career high in tackles while his 7 sacks were the second best of his career. Prior to 1006, Ekuban had never had more than 39 tackles in any season. Last year the former North Carolina standout amassed 63 tackles, including 48 solo. Ekuban is another high motor guy, that when used properly can be effective against the run and get up-field at the quarterback. Ekuban will be relied upon this season to mentor the younger guys and still provide solid output, especially early in the year when the Broncos' rookie D-Ends are getting their feet wet. Ekuban has also been a team leader in the locker room, providing the Broncos a positive voice on and off the field.
Kenard Lang(6-3, 264) --
Lang is the second former Brown that has come in and done a solid job for the Broncos. Signed as a free agent last season, Lang came in and contributed immediately. While his play was solid, Lang is starting to get up there in years and the Broncos cannot be assured of the output they are going to get form the 11-year vet. Lang still had a productive sack season(6), but his 36 tackles were his lowest total since the 2000 season with the Redskins. While several players have remained productive on the wrong side of 30, most do not and at 32 Lang has logged a lot of miles. In his career, which has spanned 10 seasons to date, Lang has played in 154 out of a possible 160 games. Lang's playing time will have to be closely monitored, but Lang should be able to provide the Broncos solid play and solid leadership for the young guys.
Elvis Dumervil(5-11, 250) --
He was supposed to be too small. That was what all the "experts" said. After high school, after college, Dumervil was considered to be too small to be a force on the D-Line. All Dumervil did was continue to make life a living hell on opposing quarterbacks. That said, it was still a surprise Dumervil came into the League and led the Broncos with 8.5 sacks as a rookie in 2006. Elvis is a relentless competitor who compensates for a lack of ideal size and bulk with fierce determination, impressive quickness, raw power and natural leverage. The half-brother of former Louisville standout safety Curry Burns (Washington), Dumervil developed into one of the premier pass rushers in the game of football, but also has shown flashes of brilliance in playing vs. the run. The Broncos strategy on the D-Line under Jim Bates should help Dumervil the most, since Elvis uses his speed to get around offensive lineman instead of power. Bates prefers to spread his D-Ends out a couple steps to make life difficult on opposing tackles. It opens up some holes against the run, but the big bodies the Broncos have amassed in the middle should have an impact there allowing Dumervil to create havoc in the back field. I expect Dumervil to have a huge year under Bates and new line coach Bill Johnson.
Kenny Peterson(6-3, 285) --
Peterson came to the Broncos after he was released by Green Bay early in 2006. In 34 career regular-season games (0 starts), Peterson has totaled 54 tackles (34 solo), three sacks (14 yds.), five pass breakups, one fumble recovery and two forced fumbles. He also has played two career postseason contests (0 starts), posting four tackles (3 solo) and one sack (2 yds.) in those games. Peterson played all 16 games with Green Bay in 2005 and recorded three sacks and 30 tackles (17 solo) for the NFL's top-ranked pass defense (167.5 ypg.). Peterson has the ability to play inside in a pinch, which he did for the Broncos when Gerard Warren struggled last season with foot problems. With the multiple new additions on the defensive line opportunities for Peterson may be few and far between but I look for the former Buckeye to compete and make the coaches decision a tough one. In the end Peterson will be a casualty of the amazing depth the Broncos have been able to add to the D-Line.
Carlos Hall(6-4, 259) --
Hall is a fifth-year defensive end who spent the 2006 regular season out of the NFL after Kansas City released him Sept. 2. He joined Kansas City in a trade from Tennessee on April 6, 2005, in exchange for a fifth-round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft after playing his first three professional seasons with the Titans. Selected by Tennessee in the seventh round (240th overall) of the 2002 NFL Draft, Hall has played 59 career games (33 starts) and totaled 228 tackles (139 solo), 14.5 sacks (55.5 yds.), nine pass breakups, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. I really don't see a spot for hall on the team, but one never truly knows until you get into Training Camp. The Broncos have always done a good job of searching high and low for talent and while guys like Hall end up falling into the abyss more often than not there is nothing wrong with creating a competitive environment on the practice field. I just wouldn't order a Carlos Hall jersey if I were you.
Jarvis Moss(6-6, 251) --
There is a lot of hype surrounding Moss, the Broncos first round pick in the 2007 draft. Mosses physical attributes are very similar to another former Jim Bates protégé, Jason Taylor(6-6, 255). While not as straight-line fast as Taylor, Moss is a specimen in his own right and with the proper coaching can become a dominant pass rusher. Moss started all of the 13 games he played as a redshirt junior, helping Florida to a victory in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game as well as a win in the BCS national championship game. He finished the year with 56 tackles (42 solo) and 7.5 sacks (60 yds.), which marked the second-highest total on the Gators and fifth-best mark in the conference. Moss added 11 tackles for losses, four forced fumbles and four pass breakups. Over his final two seasons with the Gators, Moss totaled 15 sacks and one need look no further than the BCS National Championship Game to see the kind of hell Moss can create for opposing quarterbacks. Moss is rough around the edges, no doubt about it, and there were some off-field issues, but there is no doubting the pure athletic ability Moss possesses. Jim Bates' defense fits what Moss does perfectly and both Bates and Bill Johnson have a history of developing defensive lineman. I am really excited to see Moss on the field and have a feeling he is going to make some things happen next season. One often-overlooked fact is Moss's ability to block field goals. In a 1 point home win against South Carolina last season Moss blocked not one, but two fourth quarter kicks to preserve the Gator's championship hopes.
Tim Crowder(6-4, 270) --
Jarvis Moss is all flash. Tim Crowder, the Broncos' 2nd round pick in the draft, is all substance. Crowder isn't exceptional in any one area but is solid in all parts of his game. A 4-year starter at Texas, Crowder was First Team All Big-12 his final two seasons for the Longhorns and brings a lot of game day experience to the Broncos. Crowder started all 13 games as a senior for the Longhorns and compiled 59 tackles (39 solo), 10.5 sacks (66 yds.), four forced fumbles, three passes defensed and a fumble recovery in the end zone for a touchdown. Crowder might be the most game ready of all the Broncos' young players and while Moss might have the higher ceiling Crowder might be the one to make a bigger impact from the first day of Training Camp. Because Crowder is a more consistent all-around player at this point he will probably see more game action early on that Moss and I expect him to remain as solid and steady as he was for 4 years at Texas.
My Depth Chart
- - Ebenezar Ekuban
- - Kenard Lang
- - Elvis Dumervil
- - Tim Crowder
- - Jarvis Moss
- - John Engelberger