The Denver Broncos are currently the second best scoring defense in the league having only allowed 137 points through eight games (17.1 points per game). Only the Bills at 15.6 have been better.
This meets the expectations for the defense from the pre-season when many thought the Broncos defense to be one of the best in the league. Having done this without three starters on defense for the majority of the season (Bradley Chubb, Josey Jewell and Alexander Johnson) is fairly impressive. It’s another example of our defensive coaches getting the most of the limited talent that they have.
We saw this last season when Denver’s cornerbacks were going down to injury at an alarming rate. This season it has been linebackers where the Broncos currently have five on the IR (Chubb, Jewell, Johnson, Andre Mintze and Natrez Patrick).
So far the run defense has been decent - currently tied for 12th, allowing 4.16 yards per carry, but that is bolstered by the first three games. Over the last five games the Broncos run defense has allowed 629 yards on 145 runs (including kneeldowns) - which is 4.34 yards per carry. That’s still not terrible, but the Broncos are about to face the two of the best rushing teams in the league in the Cowboys (4th in ypc) and the Eagles (3rd in ypc) and we have two games against the Chiefs (6th in ypc) and the Chargers (10th in ypc).
Getting Mike Purcell back should help here, but Kenny Young, Justin Strnad and Baron Browning will be tested early and often both in the run game (where Strnad has looked lost during the past two games) and the passing game. Our defensive coaches have a tremendous challenge in getting our linebackers to play at an NFL level during the back half of the season.
Our defense will be facing some of the better scoring offenses in the latter half with Dallas (3rd in ppg scored), Cincy (7th), Kansas City (9th), Las Vegas (11th) and Philly (12th) all coming in to face our depleted defense, which will probably finish much lower than second in points allowed per game. If this defense is somehow able to finish the season in the top five in points allowed, it should probably count as Donatell and Fangio’s greatest coaching achievement. Frankly, should that happen, it might just save Fangio’s job as the head coach of the Broncos.
One way in which the Bronco defense have been as good as expected is in tackling. Currently the Broncos have only missed 31 tackles through eight games - 3.9 per game. That is the best value in the league and is less than half of the worst tackling defense, the Ravens, who are missing 8.3 tackles per game.
|2||Kansas City Chiefs||4.8|
|3||Green Bay Packers||5.1|
|5||New Orleans Saints||5.6|
|6||New England Patriots||5.8|
|10||Los Angeles Rams||6.1|
|11||Las Vegas Raiders||6.1|
|16||Washington Football Team||6.5|
|17||New York Giants||6.6|
|19||San Francisco 49ers||6.7|
|22||New York Jets||7.0|
|29||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||7.6|
|31||Los Angeles Chargers||7.9|
One way in which the Fangio/Donatell defenses in Denver have disappointed so far is their lack of turnovers. Over the past 2.5 seasons the Broncos defense has forced a total of 41 turnovers. That is 27th in the league over this time span. Compare that to the Steelers defense that has forced 71 over the past two and a half seasons.
|4||New England Patriots||36||22||9||67|
|5||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||28||25||14||67|
|8||New Orleans Saints||23||22||13||58|
|9||Green Bay Packers||25||18||14||57|
|11||New York Giants||16||26||13||55|
|14||New York Jets||21||22||11||54|
|15||Washington Football Team||22||23||9||54|
|16||Kansas City Chiefs||23||22||8||53|
|17||Los Angeles Rams||24||19||10||53|
|19||San Francisco 49ers||27||20||5||52|
|31||Los Angeles Chargers||14||15||9||38|
The Fangio style of defense relies on being able to get pressure without having to blitz and the Broncos defensive line and edge rushers have not been very good at generating pressure under Fangio. Blitzing can help, but blitzing leads to big plays against many of the best QBs in the league.
The Broncos defense has already allowed 32 plays of 20 or more yards this season (tied for 22nd) and seven plays of 40 or more yards (tied for 29th). In terms of 40 yard plays allowed only the Lions, Texans (eight) and Chiefs (eleven) have been worse. So far there is only one team to not allow a 40 yard play on defense, the Atlanta Falcons. The Dolphins have been the worst big play defense so far this year having allowed 46 plays of 20 or more and five of 40 or more. The Bills defense has only allowed fifteen plays that gained 20 or more yards in seven games.
|rank||Team||total 20+||total 40+|
On the other side of this, the Broncos offense has not been very good at generating chunk plays. Our offense is currently tied for 24th with 26 plays of twenty or more yards. The Bucs have the most currently at 43 while the Saints have only generated 15 chunk plays so far this season.
|Rank||Team||total 20+||total 40+|