The Denver Broncos saw their elite number one run defense of 2015 crumble catastrophically to the bottom five last season. As we all remember, the interior of the defensive line was consistently blown off the ball at the line of scrimmage.
“It was a combination of things,” Crick said of the run defense last season. “You can’t point your fingers at one position or one guy or anything like that. We wanted to get bigger up front. We were undersized last year and we knew it. We just keep or tenacity up. Obviously, we’re doing some different things defensively this year to help out with that. Being bigger and stronger this year will help out with that. We also have to ask Coach Woods what he wants to do to emphasize things we were weaker at. Right now, as defensive linemen, we’re just doing what we can, getting bigger and getting stronger. We’re just using the summer time to be better physically than we were last year.”
It was determined that a big part of that was the size disadvantage just like Jared Crick and Adam Gotsis had over their opponents last season. The Broncos attempted to address that issue by signing two 320+ pound defensive linemen in free agency in Domata Peko and Zach Zerr.
Not only that, both Crick and Gotsis showed up to OTA’s 15-20 pounds heavier. Gotsis is now over 300 pounds, while Crick is pushing 290.
“Yes,” Crick said when asked if he had put on some weight. “I probably gained about 15 pounds over the offseason. It’s not an advantage for yourself to be under 275 which I was at times last year going against offensive lines in the AFC West. So this offseason, I tried to gain 15 pounds. Hopefully I can gain another five before training camp. Obviously all good weight to where I can still move. I feel a lot stronger going into this summer than any of the summers I’ve been in the NFL.”
The Broncos big free agent additions are likely competing for the nose tackle position with Sylvester Williams now with the Tennessee Titans.
“They’ve mixed it up a little bit,” Kerr said of how the Broncos have utilized him in OTA’s. “I have a majority of my snaps at nose, but I get a good amount of snaps outside at the D-End positions as well. Just trying to get comfortable.”
Kerr figures to be competing for playing time with long-time NFL veteran Peko, but the elder is helping the younger learn the nuances of the nose tackle position that can only help the Broncos interior line become better than it was in 2016.
“He’s done it a long time, especially playing the nose position in the NFL,” Kerr said of Peko. “It’s a pretty tough task. I asked Peko a lot of things. He helps me out with offensive sets or, ‘If they come out in this,’ to, ‘If you hear this.’ Nose is kind of a thinking man’s game. Football is in general, but really at the nose. You have to really, really be a quick thinker. You come out and everything is right there in your face. Peko has been doing it for a long time and he helps me out a lot with that. He’s a good guy to have in the room, for sure.”
This offseason just has a different feel to it. Are their questions heading into the season? Sure, but the talent seems to be have improved, especially along the interior of the defensive line. For a defense that is already elite, that only reaffirms my belief their reign atop the NFL will continue another year.
“It’s intense,” Kerr said of the defense. “The most intense defense that I’ve been around. I think it’s fun. I think this might be the first place—obviously, I’ve only been two places—but I’ve seen where the DBs are the nucleus of the defense. It’s exciting to see the skinny guys get after us sometimes.”
That last quote about the No Fly Zone holding the 300 pound defensive linemen accountable tells us all we need to know about how fiery this defense is going to be this season. Enjoy this, Broncos Country. We’ll look back a decade from now with the same reverence of these guys that older fans do of the Orange Crush days from the 1970s.