Ryan Edwards and Benjamin Allbright peppered Hall-of-Famer Steve Atwater with a bunch of questions during Atwater’s regular Tuesday night segment on Broncos Country Tonight - all of which could make for interesting discussion.
Spoken like a true defensive player, when asked which side of the ball needs to improve more for the Broncos to make the playoffs, Atwater didn’t hesitate to say offense.
And most of Broncos Country would probably say the same.
“That’s easy. We’ve got to score more points,” Atwater said. “Don’t get me wrong, the defense has to get more turnovers, more sacks...but the defense can do whatever it wants, and if you can’t score 20, 28, 30 points, you’re not going to win many games in this league.”
It’s a valid argument, especially when your biggest division foe is the Kansas City Chiefs.
But Allbright brought up the Broncos’ lackluster defensive performance in a few key areas - namely, turnovers. And when it came to number of takeaways versus giveaways, the Broncos were dead even - which is not the ratio teams would like.
“The thing is, the times we did have the ball, we didn’t do with it what we should have,” Atwater countered, adding a gut punch”, Just sit in the stands, sometimes it wasn’t as exciting to watch. Some of the offensive line mistakes, the immobility of the quarterback was a little bit frustrating. If you can have an offense that can score some points, the fans will be into it, the players will feel a lot better about themselves - offensively and defensively - and that can fire up the defense to get more turnovers as well.”
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Although the Broncos were 25th in takeaways last season, Atwater still wasn’t buying that it’s the defense that needs to pick up the most slack.
“Yeah, but if even they were 15th, could we have still scored more points?”
Highly unlikely. Good counter punch, Steve.
But there’s no question the Broncos’ defense has much to improve upon. Edwards noted an interesting study by ESPN this week looking at all 32 NFL teams’ DVOA scores the past decade. And the network found a common trend in which teams generally had a tougher time maintaining a consistently good defense - something that is almost exactly opposite the Broncos’ trend over the past 10 years (even with the magnificent Peyton Manning).
But Atwater had a quick answer for that too.
Watching some Von Miller 2019 film today for context on his low sack season.— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) June 16, 2020
In response to the questions of whether or not Miller can still be a top impact pass rusher, the only answer is:
Yes, absolutely. pic.twitter.com/BCgvqWDDJH
“If you can name one player who was here a majority of the decade and made his presence felt, it’s first ballot HOFer Von Miller,” Atwater said, noting the number of sacks throughout his time here. “What else could you point to?”
Now it was Allbright’s turn for a good answer, pointing out that five of the six best passing teams last season did not make the playoffs while five of the six top running teams did. The Broncos have consistently had a good run defense since 2010.
“The Broncos are good at stopping the run,” Allbright noted. “For all of the talk of being passing league, if you could stop the run, you could stop good football teams and that’ll keep you in the playoffs.”
Looking at the offense, Bleacher Report ranked each team’s supporting cast for its quarterback. Last season the Broncos were ranked a miserable 27th. This season BR bumped them up to 10th.
“It’s a totally new offense,” Atwater said, adding that it looks good on paper but the test will come in how the guys work together. “Hopefully the rookies come in and make a difference. Hopefully attitudes mesh well together. If we have bad attitudes and selfish guys not willing to put in the work - and I don’t think that will happen - it can mess up all kinds of predictions.”
Edwards asked Atwater why the excitement for the offense is different this season. Aside from the obvious addition of a quarterback who can throw, run and generally play smart football, Atwater agrees the supporting cast is strong.
“We have bona fide burners in addition to picking up Melvin Gordon. We’re stacked at a few different positions. Tight end is one of the deepest,” Atwater said. “The only area people are questioning is offensive line, but I’m not worried about that.”
Spoken like a true defensive player.
Which stat will be more important to improve?
This poll is closed
More takeaways by the defense
More points by the offense