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The Broncos feature surprises on defense

P.J. Locke and Ja’Quan McMillian have been huge during the Broncos turnaround

When the Denver Broncos beat the Los Angeles Chargers two defensive players stood out. They have been a big part of the defensive turnaround in Denver. While Pat Surtain II is the best DB in football, it is the contributions of Ja’Quan McMillian and P.J. Locke that have really stood out during the team’s push for the playoffs.

On Broncos Odds and Endzones Ian and I always discuss players to watch during the upcoming game. We rarely discuss who we are going to say, so when we got to the defense he immediately brought up McMillian. While discussing him, he also referenced Locke, who was my choice for the upcoming game against the Detroit Lions.

With the way this season has played out for the Broncos, seeing two players that have stepped up to impact the improvement of the team has been special. Without even getting into the stats, or any specifics, if you close your eyes and think about big plays on defense for Denver this season, I bet you see some sort of McMillian forced fumble, or a Locke sack.

McMillian’s impact has been felt by the whole team because he has been involved in so many turnovers. Think back to the win against the Buffalo Bills. A forced fumble recovery on the first play from scrimmage set the tone for that game. These are the kind of impact plays that he has been part of since getting into the lineup. And his undrafted free agent status endears him to Broncos Country even more with the throwback to names like Chris Harris Jr.

It’s actually surprising when looking at the stats for McMillian that he has only started two games. He has some of the biggest defensive plays of the year. He’s an integral part of the defense, but doesn’t get a lot of starts. With 4 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, and 2 sacks, McMillian has been one of the most important players on the field in the last 7 games.

As for Locke, I mentioned on the show that I have a bit of an affinity for him. A few seasons ago I wrote his 90 in 90 piece for the preseason and mentioned he could make the team, but it would be a long shot. Now here he is filling in for Kareem Jackson and being an absolute menace on the field.

His lone interception came against the Green Bay Packers, but he also has a forced fumble and a sack in each of the last three games. With Jackson’s suspension giving him an opportunity, Locke has likely played himself into a battle for the starting job at safety opposite Justin Simmons.

With Locke and McMillian, the Broncos secondary should continue to stymy defenses. With the way the schedule looks, Detroit might be the biggest offensive test the rest of the season. A win this week puts Denver one step closer to the playoffs. McMillian and Locke will play a huge role in making that happen.