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No Bull Roster Review Part 1: Defensive Line

A No Bull look at the current Denver Broncos roster, its strengths, weaknesses, and what we can expect to target in free agency and the draft.

DENVER BRONCOS VS DETROIT LIONS, NFL Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

With the free agency season about to kick off for the Denver Broncos, it is a great time to step back, take a look at the roster, and play a little armchair GM leading up to all of the excitement of possible free-agent signings, trades, and of course the NFL Draft. H/T to www.footballoutsiders.com for their information on snap percentages and overthecap.com for their information on current contracts for all players.

All of this is my own personal opinion based on the tried and true eye test of what I’ve seen from these players on the field. For the sake of brevity, I’ll be leaving out guys that didn’t see the field in any significant way in 2021 as well as guys who are Unrestricted Free Agents. Enjoy the discussion, join the subjective debate, and share your thoughts good or bad in the comments.

We will kick this off with a look at the defensive line and find out what holes the Broncos should be looking to fill in the 2022 NFL offseason.

Player Rating Key

  1. Project / developmental - lacking necessary skills to contribute as it stands today
  2. Backup quality - Can play, but isn’t a guy you want out there every snap
  3. Mediocre starter - Doesn’t bring anything special to the table, but is able to do the job
  4. Good starter - An above-average talent
  5. Blue chip player - Top 10 talent in the NFL at what he does

Unit Rating Key

  1. Critical Need - lack of talent at starter and depth
  2. Lacking at least one starter
  3. Mediocre need
  4. Solid talent and depth
  5. Elite talent level

Nose Tackle

Mike Purcell - 4

Denver Broncos v New York Jets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

I’ve liked Mike Purcell’s game for a few years now. He’s learned and grown year after year with this team and really deserved his extension last season. He played 33% of the snaps last season (welcome to the world of sub-packages as a NT in the NFL).

Purcell is a NT who can 2-gap with the best of them. He’s one of the guys who does a good job, but won’t get noticed as his good plays aren’t splashy. He’s the guy that makes the RBs have to cut away from the A gaps because they are clogged.

DeShawn Williams - 2

Los Angeles Rams v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Williams at 30 years old is a Restricted Free Agent for us after playing approximately 35% of the team’s snaps in 2021. He did get a sack on the season and a handful of quarterback hits, but his forte wasn’t in pass rushing. He was largely asked to hold down his gaps and sub in situationally.

I see him as a solid depth player who’s today likely a back-up player. He’s made big strides in a couple of years though and may have some ceiling left in him. Given that he’s a RFA, I think it is a no-brainer move to bring him back and see what another year of work will do for his game.

Unit Rating - 4

The Broncos are doing well for the NT position. They could bring back Shamar Stephen as another depth guy if needed.

Defensive Ends

Dre’Mont Jones - 4

Detroit Lions v Denver Broncos Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Dre’Mont Jones is our best play-maker on the defensive line now that Shelby Harris has left town. He racked up 5.5 sacks, 9 TFLs, 11 QHs, 2 PDs, and a forced fumble on the season. The guy just makes plays.

He’s a penetrating pass-rush force but also attacks the run very well. Once Von Miller was traded, he was our pass rush by and large with teams eventually double-teaming him to slow things down. If the Broncos can find another edge player, look for Jones to have another productive season with the Broncos.

Unit Rating - 2

We need to replace a starter with Shelby Harris leaving. Those are some big shoes to fill.

Defensive roster status overall

Nose Tackles: 4

Defensive Ends: 2