Do you see what I see?
The two defensive tackles not listed are Pot Roast and Sylvester Williams. What I want you to focus on however is the fact that we have Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware acting as true pass rushing defensive ends with a full compliment of linebackers behind them. This looks more like a true 4-3 defense on a base down against heavy personnel--a situation where we would normally see our base "under" defense with SAM LB Von Miller at the LOS. What it gives you however, is a great way to get the best personnel on the field in order to defend the run and the pass. Let's break it down.
2 edge rushers, check
Space eating DT's, check
3 coverage DB's (Ward included), check
run stop specialists (DT's + Irving), check
2 coverage LB's (Trevathan + Marshall), check
The versatility among the front 7 is key and though the depth at linebacker is thin behind the starters, the starters give Jack Del Rio the opportunity to play with coverage needs. With this lineup, I see the ability to play with nickel coverage capabilities (subbing Marshall for Roby) while being able to defend the run with base tendencies. If you wanted to add more pass rush "oomph" to the mix you could certainly substitute Malik Jackson for Sylvester Williams.
You have the best of both worlds here and while I wouldn't advise putting a linebacker or safety against a slot receiver in coverage, we can certainly start to use this as our base defense more often to keep offenses honest on 1st down when it comes to the passing game.
This past week the Patriots seemed to solve a lot of issues on their offense by rolling out a revamped 2 TE set with a couple of receiving threats in Rob Gronkowski and Timothy Wright. Thinking ahead, this is also a defense that could be used to combat that personnel group. Just as their offensive personnel is being used to put the defense in a bad situation no matter the approach they choose, this defense can be used as a hybrid to give the Broncos a counter to that attack.
It remains to be seen how much this specific alignment will be used, but it highlights something more important. With Danny Trevathan back in the fold, Del Rio has the ability to field two true coverage linebackers. That keeps Von Miller rushing the quarterback, TJ Ward as a valuable chess piece to be moved all over the field, and the ability to give the offense a variety of different looks against specific personnel groupings.
Options are plentiful and the Broncos will excel.
How did this specific play run out? In-com-plete
I normally hate zone, but look at the beautiful way the Broncos secondary passes off their responsibilities. The windows are small and that is precisely what you're looking for, especially with how much athleticism exists on the back end.