Name: Domata Peko
Height: 6’3" Weight: 325 lbs
Age: 32 Experience: 12th
College: Michigan State
John Elway went into the 2016 offseason with the goal of bolstering the Denver Broncos’ ranks in the trenches on both sides of the ball. On the defensive line, nose tackle Sylvester Williams was allowed to leave for the Tennessee Titans and the Broncos needed a new man to be front and center in the starting defense. Enter Domata Peko.
Domata, the cousin of Broncos practice squad defensive tackle Kyle Peko, is the oldest player in the Broncos’ front seven. He was born in Pago Pago, American Samoa and played high school football there before moving on to College of the Canyons and then Michigan State University. The Cincinnati Bengals drafted him in the 4th round of the 2006 NFL Draft, and he played in Cincinnati for the first 11 years of his NFL career. Peko has played in 171 regular season games in his career, starting 156 of them, as well as 6 postseason games. This includes a 112 game streak of consecutive regular season starts, which leads all NFL defensive linemen.
Despite being a player near the end of his career, Peko likely has a lot of value to offer the Broncos. There’s his on-field play, of course, and while he’s never been a Pro Bowler, he’s a steady and reliable player in the middle of the defense. And he’s a durable player, considering his consecutive games started streak.
But the biggest benefits that Domata can bring to the 2017 Broncos are probably a bit more intangible to us as fans. At 32, he’s about five years older than any other starters on the front seven. That’s a lot of practice, technique, and game experience (about 80 games worth) that can translate into useful knowledge to be passed on to our young guys. Players like Zach Kerr, Adam Gotsis, DeMarcus Walker, and Kyle Peko could learn a lot just by being around Peko the Elder.
Locker room presence is a plus with Domata as well. He was chosen as the Bengals’ Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee in 2013, and was voted a team captain by his teammates there for eight consecutive years (2009-2016). He’s the kind of guy you want in the defensive line room when that unit is struggling. Or if the offense is struggling and the defense is getting fed up with it, he’s a guy you want to be there to influence the situation. In that respect, it’s quite possible that Elway brought Peko in to fill some of the locker room leadership void left by DeMarcus Ware’s retirement.
There’s also the chance he might teach Derek Wolfe and the rest of the D-line how to perform a Haka dance. And a Haka dance with a built in Wolfe-howl or two is something we’ve just gotta see.
Age is undefeated, and Peko is starting to show signs of decline. Domata didn’t register a sack in 2016, for the first time since 2009. Though he did come close when he tackled Trevor Siemian during the Bengals’ Week 3 loss against the Broncos. But Siemian managed to deny him the sack by gaining one yard on his scramble. Peko also notched only 17 solo tackles last year, tying his 2015 career low for solo tackles in a full season. He had only 12 in an injury-shortened 2009 campaign.
Even when he was younger, Peko wasn’t necessarily a sack machine. Most nose tackles aren’t, but his pass rushing ability is rather marginal at this point. One of the best ways for savvy QBs to mitigate Von Miller and Shane Ray coming at them from the outside is to step up in the pocket. That means the Broncos’ interior pass rush is important as well, and if Peko can’t hack it there he’ll be restricted to a rotational, two-down role.
So Peko’s situation this offseason isn’t necessarily lacking in intrigue. Can Joe Woods and Bill Kollar breathe a bit of new life into an aging veteran? Or will he continue his decline?
Broncos fans haven’t gotten to hear all that much from Domata yet, but he made an impression quickly. He made it clear that he understands what the Broncos’ standards are, and that he looks forward to meeting them.
"In Cincy, we were kind of always talking about, ‘Oh, I want to win a playoff game. I want to win a playoff game. But over here, we’re talking about winning championships. That’s what brought me here. I want to win a championship."
The drive to compete is still there for the 32 year old nose tackle.
“I still have that hunger that I want to get a ring. I want to win a championship, and that’s what keeps me going.”
Peko also knows exactly what he was brought in to do: fill the run-stopping gap up front. And he looks forward to the job.
“Being in the AFC North, it’s a really tough run type of division. And being a nose guard over a decade, that’s what I do. I like to clog up the middle of the field. I like to fill up those run lanes that were kind of lacking last year.”
Domata Peko’s roster spot is probably pretty safe. He’s got a $3.3 million cap hit in 2017, but would cost $3.8 million in dead money if he were cut. So it’s likely that he’ll make the final 53 man roster. The real question is what his role will be.
That depends as much on players like Zach Kerr and Tyrique Jarrett as it does on Domata Peko himself. His cousin Kyle is in the mix at nose tackle as well, but the broken foot he suffered during OTAs will set him back quite a bit in the competition.
My guess at this point is that Domata will get the early season starts at nose tackle, but will share significant snaps with Kerr. Depending on his performance, and on the development of the young guys, we may see Domata take more of a back seat as the season goes on.
What role do you think Domata Peko will play for the Broncos this season?
This poll is closed
Starter at Nose Tackle
Rotational Nose Tackle
Backup/Locker room presence only
He won’t make the team