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2018 Training Camp: Five breakout candidates on the defensive side of the ball for the Broncos

I give you five defensive players on the Broncos roster who could have a breakout campaign in 2018.

NFL: Denver Broncos-Minicamp Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Each year Training Camp provides a stepping stone for players to vault themselves into stardom in the NFL. The Broncos have multiple players who fit that bill on the defensive side of the ball and will need them to step up if they want to continue having a top-level defense. So I give you five Broncos on the defensive side of the ball who could have breakout campaigns in 2018.

1: Edge rusher, Bradley Chubb

This is an obvious one. The fifth overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft will likely start opposite from star edge rusher Von Miller and will be in contention to be the Defensive Rookie of the Year this season.

Chubb was expected to contribute regardless in 2018 but his potential role expanded when former first-round pick Shane Ray suffered another wrist injury which will sideline him into the season.

The reason why Chubb is a prime breakout candidate for the Broncos is that he does everything well. He has quickness, top-notch strength, bend, a high motor, solid run defender, good positioning for a pass rusher, good technique for a rookie, and just displayed top notch athleticism for a player of his size. Chubb is legit and an absolute steal for the Broncos with the 5th overall pick(what were you thinking Cleveland?).

Add all that with Von Miller getting all the attention on the other side of the defense and you have a very talented Chubb getting plenty of one on one opportunities.

I think if he can stay healthy, 10+ sacks is achievable and earning the Defensive Rookie of the Year is also achievable. Having Chubb and Von terrorizing quarterbacks for years to come is an exciting thing to think about.

2: Inside linebacker, Josey Jewell

It took me a little while to get on the Jewell hype train leading up to the draft but I eventually got there and absolutely loved this pick. I would not be shocked if Jewell overtook Todd Davis’s starting job during camp and end up totaling 100+ tackles his rookie year. I think he can be that good.

Jewell lacks high-level athleticism, but his nose for the ball and his instincts make up for his deficiencies in those areas.

Jewell’s Head Coach at Iowa, Kirk Ferentz spoke about Jewell and shared what sort of legacy the three-time team captain would leave on his program and what type of player the Broncos are getting.

I think he had a really serious approach. It was clear that he had purpose every time that he took the field in practice. Josey doesn’t say a lot. He’s not necessarily a real vocal guy. But he’s extremely intense, extremely determined. And he just went about his business in a way that made everybody else better, just because of the [standard] that he set with his work ethic. He’s the same way in our building that he was on the practice field or in the weight room. Everything he did — his academics are the same way — he did it with a high standard. The other thing I would share with you, which kind of reflects all that, he’s the first three-time captain we’ve ever coached. Our sports information folks went back and traced it, and they can go back as far as the ‘30s, and he’s the first three-time captain in the history of the program. Our players vote for the captains. We don’t select them as coaches. So at a very early age in his career, his teammates recognized what his value was to our football team.

Jewell to me is a plug and play sort of player. At the very least, he will be a very good run defender and special teams player. However, my hopes for him are a bit higher. I think he can turn into a leader/captain of this defense and just a core piece to the Broncos defense going forward. The fact the Broncos were able to get this sort of player in the fourth round of the draft is a major steal in my opinion.

I’m anxious to see what Jewell does during camp and especially the preseason.

3: Defensive end, DeMarcus Walker

One overlooked player who may help determine how good the Broncos defense is in 2018 is 2017 second-round pick, DeMarcus Walker.

He spent the vast majority of his rookie year playing out of position at outside linebacker for the Broncos and it obviously stunted his development a bit. They finally moved him back to defensive end near the end of the season and Walker flashed some in the season finale against the rival Chiefs. Now, he has spent the entire 2018 offseason adding weight/muscle to his frame and preparing to play defensive end full-time for the Broncos.

Interior pressure, not pressure off the edge, is a quarterbacks worst nightmare and that is exactly what Walker can give the Broncos. They got some of that from Derek Wolfe, Shelby Harris, and Adam Gotsis last season, but none of those three possess the pass rushing talent Walker has. If he can develop into a consistent interior pass rusher for the Broncos, he can be the Malik Jackson of the 2018 Broncos defense.

One exciting development about Walker that should excite fans is Head Coach Vance Joseph telling the media that he is thriving under Defensive Line Coach Bill Kollar’s coaching this offseason.

“DeMarcus right now, he’s back to about 277-280,” Joseph said on Tuesday. “He looks good. Having him with Bill [Kollar] all the time has helped him. Last year he was kind of bounced around from outside linebacker to defensive line, but having him at one position has helped him a lot. He understands what Bill wants. Bill’s obviously a demanding coach, so being with Bill has helped DeMarcus play harder, and being bigger is going to help him play better for us.”

If the Broncos can get what they think they’re getting in edge rusher Bradley Chubb and Walker provides some interior pass rush, the Broncos pass rush goes from being just good to downright lethal.

4: Safety, Justin Simmons

Justin Simmons wasn’t originally expected to start leading up to camp last year, but after the surprising release of veteran T.J. Ward, Simmons stepped into a starting job.

Simmon’s play was up and down throughout the season but he generally played well for the Broncos last season. Now with one full season of starting experience under his belt, I expect big things from the Broncos ultra-athletic safety.

Simmons is as athletic as they come. His SPARQ score was off the charts, he jumped a 40-inch vertical jump and a 126.0-inch broad jump. Both were tops in his draft class and show off his athleticism that he brings to the table.

I believe Simmons can provide the Broncos a ball-hawking presence in the back of their secondary as well as a versatile player who can match up against tight ends. Simmons played some slot last season and could do that some more this season and probably man up against the opposing team’s tight ends.

Simmons already broke onto the scene last year, but I think he can do it, even more, this year.

5: Cornerback’s Isaac Yiadom or Brendan Langley

I’m including the Broncos 2017 and 2018 third-round picks here. Those picks being cornerbacks Isaac Yiadom and Brendan Langley. Both players are size/speed/athleticism guys and two guys in the running to be the team’s number three cornerback.

Currently, veteran cornerback Tramaine Brock is penciled in as the team’s third corner, but both Langley and Yiadom will be trying to win that job from him.

I like Yiadom’s skill set and size but he needs refinement as a corner. As for Langley, he joined the Broncos as a developmental pick last season. He struggled in limited playing time last season, but that should have been expected. Langley’s development will be something I will be keeping a close eye on once camp opens.

I think the Broncos would like one of these two, if not both, to flash during camp. The question is, will one, both, or neither of the two do that?


Which defensive player do you think is most likely to have a breakout year for the Broncos?

This poll is closed

  • 51%
    OLB Bradley Chubb
    (967 votes)
  • 16%
    ILB Josey Jewell
    (315 votes)
  • 22%
    DE DeMarcus Walker
    (413 votes)
  • 8%
    S Justin Simmons
    (155 votes)
  • 1%
    CB’s Brendan Langley or Isaac Yiadom
    (19 votes)
1869 votes total Vote Now