Broncos Primed To Ride Defense To End Losing Ways

Photo: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Broncos are fresh off their third consecutive losing season and arguably the worst stretch of football in franchise history. 

Denver has typically been a consistent winner throughout the decades and has not endured this much losing since the 1970s. Despite the Broncos’ recent struggles, their future is bright. 

Quarterback Drew Lock was impressive in five starts as a rookie, leading the Broncos to a 4-1 record while showcasing the upside of a franchise passer. He is surrounded by dynamic wide receivers and a loaded group of running backs to stabilize the offense. 

The offensive line welcomes free agent signee Graham Glasgow and a healthy Ja’Wuan James to go with rookie Lloyd Cushenberry III, who could land a starting role at center. Dalton Risner and Garett Bolles should continue to grow under the tutelage of offensive line coach Mike Munchak, who is the best in the business and is entering his second season working with the unit. 

Pat Shurmur is taking over as offensive coordinator where the pieces fit wonderfully into his zone rushing offense with heavy doses of play action. When considering the ingredients that made up the best components of Shurmur’s offenses in the past, Denver has it in place. The challenge ahead for the Broncos when it comes to the offense is piecing everything together in a reduced offseason and doing so with so many young players in the passing game. 

While most of the excitement stems from what the team can be offensively, the reason the Broncos are primed for a winning season is the defense. 

Retaining Shelby Harris on the defensive line was a pleasant surprise given the modest contract he signed while Jurrell Casey was a total steal in a trade general manager John Elway executed with Tennessee. Casey is a high character addition to the locker room and is still one of the most disruptive interior defenders in the game. He will help the defense apply heat in the face of opposing quarterbacks and he’s a tank against the run. 

Denver’s pass rush will receive a major boost with the return of Bradley Chubb, who missed nearly all of his sophomore season after logging 12 1/2 sacks as a rookie in 2018. Chubb’s presence should help Miller return to elite form while Malik Reed and Dre’Mont Jones flashed as rookies and should take a step forward this season. 

Todd Davis and Alexander Johnson return to the second level of Denver’s defense and complement each other wonderfully. Davis is a veteran who brings an important leadership component to the unit while Johnson was a breakout performer in his first taste of NFL action. Johnson was quick to read and react while showcasing tremendous instincts and tackling skills. Johnson looked like a star in the making last season and should be even better in 2020. 

Cornerback Bryce Callahan, who followed head coach Vic Fangio from Chicago to Denver, was supposed to play a big role as the Broncos’ slot corner. His ability to win in man coverage against receivers, defend the run and blitz reduced the effectiveness of Denver’s defensive scheme. Callahan missed all of 2019 dealing with a foot injury that he suffered with the Bears. A healthy Callahan, plus the arrival of A.J. Bouye, will make the Denver secondary even better in 2020. 

Denver returns Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson at safety to form one of the NFL’s best safety tandems. Simmons is one of the top young defensive players regardless of position in the league and Jackson is the ideal complement. 

Under the direction of Fangio and defensive coordinator Ed Donatell, the Broncos have the makeup of a unit that could rank in the top five of the entire NFL next season. The defense is why Denver is primed to end its losing ways.

Written By:

Joe Marino

Senior NFL Draft Analyst

Joe Marino is a Senior NFL Draft Analyst at TDN. Marino comes to TDN after serving as a draft analyst for NDT Scouting, FanRag Sports and Draft Breakdown dating back to 2014. In 2017, Marino became a Huddle Report Mock Draft Champion when he produced the most accurate mock draft in the world.