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Mike Purcell - the man in the middle - is the difference in this Broncos’ defense

Former Broncos’ linebacker Alfred Williams joined Broncos Country Tonight to talk quarterbacks and defense.

Denver Broncos v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images

Former Broncos’ linebacker Alfred Williams, aka “Big Al,” joined Ryan Edwards and Benjamin Allbright for their regular Monday night stint at Buffalo Wild Wings, and it’s...entertaining to say the least.

Big Al, who recently left 104.3 The Fan and joined KOA with his own show, opened with a debate about what the Broncos are doing at quarterback, arguing first that he didn’t understand why John Elway and Vic Fangio didn’t bring Drew Lock off IR in Week 6 to begin practicing - but ended up arguing that there’s no need to see Lock this season since the original plan was always to let him sit a year.

It’s a bit of a confusing exchange until Edwards and Allbright do their best to explain exactly how the Broncos got to this QB conundrum once again (and for the record, I argued this same point on the Something Something Broncos podcast last week with Jess Place and Tim Lynch who were as confused as Big Al - lol) - but it’s honestly quite simple to explain/justify, even if you don’t agree with it:

While you could certainly argue whether Joe Flacco was the right choice to begin with, many (including me) figured it was an improvement from Case Keenum and was a good stopgap while a rookie like Lock got some NFL coaching up.

So the “plan” was always to have Flacco be the unequivocal starter and Lock only coming in as an emergency for an injury to the starter. That got derailed first when Lock got hurt in preseason and needed to go on IR, preventing him from becoming the backup immediately.

When Lock would have been eligible to return to practice in Week 6, the Broncos were 2-4, coming off two wins, so all was not considered lost and seemed still too early to write off and give to a rookie QB.

But when Joe Flacco got injured in Week 8 and was sent to IR, the original plan was further derailed and had to be revised. The question then shifted to when is a good time to bring Lock off IR since the bye week would have been in the second week of his “return to practice.”

No matter how you have felt about this plan, everyone in Broncos Country can relax now that Lock is returning to practice this week. Whether Broncos Country sees him this season will depend a lot on how new starter Brandon Allen does the next two games.

Ironically, Big Al now doesn’t like the idea of Lock coming in at all because he believes it would be an unfair assessment of the rookie before an offseason in which Elway will likely need to evaluate QBs in the 2020 Draft. It’s a confusing argument, but entertaining nonetheless.

“Doesn’t make sense to me! If you thought you needed to see him sit for a year, nothing has changed,” Big Al says, and when Edwards tries to explain, he jumps in, “You’re double-talking me Ryan. ...Is anyone else here confused about what we’re doing with Drew Lock?”

However, the former CU Buffs standout and two-time Super Bowl-winning defender with the Broncos totally redeems himself when discussing an area he definitely knows well - the defense.

And he had three reasons for why this defense is so successful right now - Nos. 98, 45 and 22.

Mike Purcell. The man in the middle,” he said, noting that Purcell - far more than Shelby Harris - is made for the nose tackle position. “Purcell dominates at the point of attack; he headbutt presses, discards the center as easy as anybody I’ve seen. Plus he has this nastiness that fits the Broncos’ profile well.”

Williams noted that it’s a head-scratcher that Harris was playing nose at all, but he’s just happy the coaches have figured out the right combo for that defensive line.

“If you want to be a great defense you have to have is strength down the middle from defensive line to your linebacker corps, where A.J. Johnson is - and of course your safeties have to be a big part of how you tackle and make things happen, and Kareem Jackson has been awesome there.”

Taking those three out makes this Top 5 defense just mediocre, Big Al says, pointing specifically to the Jaguars game in which “bad things happened to the defense.”

“But soon as all three of those pieces started working together, things seemed to magically change here in Denver,” he noted. “We started seeing outside linebackers and safeties get tackles for losses; linebackers all of a sudden look like supermen running around making tackles because Mike Purcell is the man in the middle. And I’m telling you, it’s beautiful.”

Asked about whether DeMarcus Walker is being under-utilized, Williams clarified the situation well - Walker is looking good and athletic this season, but he’s still not big enough to stay out there full-time and handle the double-teams.

“He looks athletic. But you can’t give him more than those 20 or so snaps because he still doesn’t have enough lead in his pants to handle big-time double-teams and eat up 600 pounds of weight on him,” Big Al noted. “That’s still not his forté. He’s a move guy. He reminds me of a young Malik Jackson, a guy who can move, can get in/out of bad situations with his quickness and a knack for getting to the ball. So you have to get him on the field when you’re guessing there’s going to be a pass.”

Big Al also correctly diagnosed how important it will be for the offense to be able to sustain drives in order to allow this Broncos defense be the best it can be.

“We are a top five defense where the offense hasn’t given us any help,” he said. “How you become a No. 1 defense in the NFL is by taking possessions away from the offense. And the way you do that is run the ball, sustain drives and don’t give them a chance to have 12 drives in a game.”

Big Al argues that if an offense can stay on the field and limit the other team’s offense to only nine or 10 drives instead of 12, that’s easily 150-200 yards of offense they’re taking away from the opponent.

“You can only do that if you sustain drives,” Williams said. “You need a good offense and solid defense to get in that top five area.”

And then he got real.

“We’ve move the ball pretty good...but we ain’t scored no points!” he said. “We moved the ball good, which is good for the defense, but when we add the points to it, we’re talking top five defense and the ability to be a winning franchise as well.”

Preach, Big Al, preach!


Which defender do you think has been the most crucial in the turnaround for this defense?

This poll is closed

  • 31%
    Mike Purcell
    (227 votes)
  • 6%
    Kareem Jackson
    (47 votes)
  • 58%
    Alexander Johnson
    (424 votes)
  • 0%
    Shelby Harris
    (5 votes)
  • 1%
    (10 votes)
  • 0%
    (6 votes)
719 votes total Vote Now