If you are worried the Denver Broncos defense has lost some of their edge, you are fretting over nothing. This unit still has talent all over the field and that talent has the competitive fire you hope to see game in and game out.
New defensive coordinator, Joe Woods, talked about his guys after practice on Wednesday and much of the questioning centered around that competitive fire on the defense.
“The whole thing with that group is that it’s a bunch of competitive guys that have chips on their shoulders,” Woods said of the defensive backs bringing a lot of energy in practice. “Even from my first year here coaching those guys, I never had to worry about motivation. Those guys obviously push the envelope when they’re out there. They want to make sure they’re making the offense better and the offensive guys do a good job of making them better.”
The No Fly Zone has already proven they can cover with the NFL’s top ranked pass defense over the last two seasons, but they do more than that. They bring the energy and the heat on defense.
That heat and that passion wasn’t quite missing in 2016, but it was more subdued than it was in 2015. Woods focus this offseason with his group is to reset and come back flying high this season.
“My message to the whole group this year was that we have to reset,” Woods said. “I feel like after the first year we won the Super Bowl we were flying high. Guys came back and they worked hard, but it wasn’t the same thing. We came back for 2016 and didn’t have the season we wanted. 2015 it was great and we won the Super Bowl. 2016 it was down. Those two years have nothing to do with what we are trying to do in 2017. We have a reset mentality and we’re worried about what we’re doing this year to get better.”
As fans, you can feel the change in mentality from last year to this year. We all fretted over the Super Bowl hangover possibility last offseason and we mostly convinced ourselves it wasn’t going to happen, but it did happen. It happened, because the players and the franchise needed a little adversity to force that reset Coach Woods spoke of on Wednesday.
The other aspect was the huge drop off in the run defense. Teams found a weakness inside and exploited it all season long. John Elway did his best to close the talent gap at those key positions, now its on Woods to bring the run defense back to form.
The beauty of the Wade Phillips defense is in its simplicity. He’d line up his defense and dare the opponent to find a way to beat his guys. When you have the talent, its an amazingly ingenious way of playing defense in the NFL. When you have a talent deficiency somewhere, the lack of scheming becomes a major liability as we saw last year.
Woods intends to be more proactive to counter weaknesses being exploited by opposing offenses.
“There’s no secret to what we do,” Woods explained. “We line up and say, we know what you’re going to do, you know what we’re going to do, let’s see who wins. There wasn’t really a lot of variance or change in terms of the calls we ran. We had a lot of success doing it that way. If our 11 can beat your 11, we’re going to win. We just struggled early on. Moving forward, I’m going to make sure I have a little bit of variety and a little bit of change in terms of what we do—especially early in the game.”
That is good to hear. Then again, if it takes an early struggle to figure out how to shut the opposing offense down, then I’d take that too. The 2015 squad had the same issues, but usually would then not allow another score for most of the game.
The important thing for them to do now is to keep getting better. The defense will be Top 5 at the worst, which means its on the offense to close the gap and make the Broncos a more competitive football team. It’s iron sharpens iron right now as these two units practice against one another every day.
That is what Woods is about. He wants to see both his unit and the offense challenged by each other every single day.
“I’m a competitive person and right now, our offense and defense are competing at a high level,” Woods said of the competitiveness in practice. “Sometimes they make some plays on us, sometimes we make some plays on them. There’s been a lot of good going back and forth. At the end of the day, we want collective results. We play together and we win together. It’s offense, defense and ‘we-fense.’ You have some good days and you have some bad days, but you always want to win.”
That’s exactly what you want to see and hear right now during OTA’s, minicamp, and ultimately, training camp. This offseason feels different from last year and it’s making it even harder as a fan to temper my excitement for the regular season.