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Denver Broncos Positional Review: Defensive Line

Denver Broncos offseason positional review discussing what the team has based off of 2016 production of players on the team. We'll review stats, eye-test opinion, contract situation, and depth on the Denver Bronco team as we prepare for the start of free agency and the NFL draft.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

I'm breaking down our team to look at what we have in the cupboard for this offseason. In doing so, I've gathered data from to give us some stats to look at as we evaluate what our players did in the 2016 regular season. Also, contract info will be embedded when available. I'll add to that a synopsis of each player including their contract situation. Hopefully this helps Broncos Country here at MHR be better educated on the state of the team, it’s strengths and weaknesses, and what positions we’ll likely target in free agency and the draft.

In case you missed any of the earlier parts of this series: Special Teams, Safeties, Cornerbacks, Outside Linebackers, Inside Linebackers.

We’re on to the defensive line now which has to be a huge focus for the Denver Broncos heading into the 2017 season. After losing Malik Jackson in 2016, the run defense took a major step backwards and was the one thing most point to as being the downside to the Broncos defense.

There’s a whole lot of questions with this unit. Can Wolfe stay healthy? Do we have a real option for DE? Will Gotsis develop? Why in the world didn’t we pick up the 5th year option on Williams? Let’s dig in and sort out our thoughts on this group.


Defensive Line

Player Tkl Ast Comb Sack Sk Yds TFL QH Int PD FF FR Snap %
Player Tkl Ast Comb Sack Sk Yds TFL QH Int PD FF FR Snap %
Derek Wolfe 38 13 51 5.5 32 4 19 0 4 0 0 57.9%
Jared Crick 32 21 53 3 17.5 4 13 0 6 2 0 81.9%
Sylvester Williams 20 9 29 1 7 4 5 0 1 0 0 56.40%
Billy Winn 8 11 19 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 29.90%
Adam Gotsis 5 9 14 0 0 0 3 0 1 0 1 19.3%
Kyle Peko 2 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.40%


Derek Wolfe

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Contract Info

Derek Wolfe signed a big extension heading into the 2016 season. He’s a hard working lineman who has a relentless motor. The dude anchors the left side of the defense and is one of the leaders up front for us.

He’s superb against the run and in recent years has really stepped up his pass rushing game to be a force to be reckoned with.

His neck has been giving him fits this past season and hopefully this offseason allows it some time to heal.

Jared Crick

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Contract Info

One of the most head scratching things for me to note as I work through these roster posts is that Crick saw more snaps than any other defensive lineman by a large margin in 2016. I have a big problem with that as he’s probably our worst lineman against the run.

Crick’s game is attacking a gap. He’s got great burst and power to get through the line and into the backfield. The problem with him seems to be that he gets washed out of run plays fairly consistently as he’s not strong at anchoring his blocker as you can see if you watch pretty much any 2016 game.

Denver needs a better answer at RDE than Crick. His game is one as a rotational pass rusher and they really need to find someone else to be there as a starter and defend the run.

I will say that as a rotational pass rusher, I really like his game. I think Denver didn’t have much of a choice of how to use him in 2016 because of the injury to Vance Walker. Hopefully, this year we can use him more effectively as a pass rusher only.

Sylvester Williams

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Contract Info

We didn’t pick up William’s 5th year option and in my mind, rightly so. He’s JAG at NT for us that I think can easily be replaced. His run defense isn’t exceptional and he’s not much of a force as a pass rusher.

The only real way I see him back on the Broncos is if he doesn’t get any traction from other teams and we offer him a cheap contract since he is familiar with our scheme.

Billy Winn

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Contract Info

Billy Winn is another guy is going to be testing the free agency waters. Much like Williams, he didn’t really make a huge impact for the Broncos as a depth player. The difference is that he doesn’t have the 1st round pedigree.

I like his play against the run. He is a guy that anchors very well against the run. His pass rush is where he lacks, but in a scheme like ours, we can find a place for him on run downs.

Adam Gotsis

Denver Broncos v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Contract Info

Adam Gotsis was the guy in the 2016 NFL draft that had Broncos Country doing a double-take. He seemed over drafted and not ready to really play NFL ball.

The jury is still out in my opinion on how true that is. This is going to be a key year for his career. He saw the field in 2016 due to injuries and necessity. He didn’t really impress much when he was asked to play.

The big thing to look for from him this season starts with size. He needs to add some power to his game and bulk up a bit. I’m sure our training staff have him on the path to add the size he’ll need to take step forward in his game for 2017.

Kyle Peko

Kyle Peko

Contract Info

Kyle Peko is a guy that had me interested in 2016. He looked solid in his action in the preseason games and looked to me just like Gotsis: a guy that needs seasoning and some development.

He really has a good situation with Denver this year. Our line is what needs the most help on the defense and if he can show the coaches some playmaking ability, he can make a spot for himself on the team. As a big guy, he could even start at NT for us in 2017.

Position Overview

This is the area of the team that has me most concerned. Wolfe is our best player, but we don’t know how healthy he will stay for 2017. We have no answer at NT or RDE for starters and a whole lot of questions with the depth guys we have.

I see Denver grabbing a free agent to solidify their line issues as well as bring in some youth in the draft. If there’s one thing we need this offseason for our defense, it is defensive line help.

Will Walker sign with us and take another shot at being our starter across from Wolfe? Who is going to start at NT? Can Peko take the step forward and be our answer at NT? Will Gotsis develop into a playmaker? Hit up the comments and tell us what you think of this group.