Despite being one of the top defenses in the NFL in scoring, the Denver Broncos were surprisingly weak inside with a 30th ranked rushing stuff rate last season.
General manager George Paton wasted little time attacking that issue by signing one of the top run stuffers in the NFL in D.J. Jones. He then added edge rusher Randy Gregory as the defacto Von Miller replacement.
We reached out to Football Outsiders’ Mike Tanier for some feedback on this specific issue taking into account FO’s unique DVOA way of looking at things.
MHR: How much of an impact will the addition of D.J. Jones and Randy Gregory have on the Broncos run defense that ranked 30th last season in rushing stuff rate?
MIKE TANIER: Jones is a heck of a run defender, albeit generally in a 30-40 snap role. His arrival more-or-less cancels out Shelby Harris’ departure. Gregory has never been much of a run defender; in past seasons, the Cowboys limited him to a situational pass-rush role, though he played much more when healthy in 2021. He may improve the Broncos’ stuff rate with a handful of splash plays in the backfield.
We have the Broncos ranked 29th in overall defense, which I am sure that Broncos fans will find surprising/infuriating. The fact is that it takes a lot of projection for guys like Gregory to see them having outstanding seasons, and the Broncos defense benefitted to a degree for the last few years from teams knowing that they could be conservative against them and still win.
MHR: Where is the biggest area of positional concern for the Broncos heading into training camp?
TANIER: Like I said earlier, there’s a lot of projection to be done on defense. Gregory is coming back from offseason surgery and has never been healthy and available for a full season. Neither had Bradley Chubb since he was a rookie. I’m not sure what role Alex Singleton will play at linebacker, but he lost his job in Philly for coverage blunders.
If everyone plays their best football, the Broncos defense looks like a Super Bowl caliber unit. But if everyone plays their typical football, this is an ordinary-at-best unit whose depth will be tested.
Without Vic Fangio, it is clear that FO thinks the defense takes a big step backwards in efficiency in 2022. I did find this projection surprising, but I’ll reserve the fury for when they are either proven wrong or correct.
Pairing D.J. Jones with Dre’Mont Jones could be something FO is overlooking, but they seem really down on Jones’ impact given they expect him to play half the snaps in any given game. We’ll have to see how this plays out under new defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero.
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