Posted Fri Jul 30th by Jon Heath
“The past is behind, learn from it. The future is ahead, prepare for it.”
One of the many questions the Broncos face entering 2010, is can the “old” defensive line play at a high level, and not wear down? Defensive linemen Justin Bannan, Jamal Williams and Jarvis Green are the three projected starters, and are all on the wrong side of thirty.
There’s not much evidence that an old defensive line cannot produce, or perhaps better worded, cannot prevent offenses from producing. The opposite is actually true for the Broncos. In 2005, the Broncos’ defense had one of its best seasons in recent history. The Broncos Takeaway/Giveaway Differential was +20, which happened to be second best in the NFL in that category. The defensive can take the credit for that, after snatching 20 interceptions, 28 sacks, and 19 forced fumbles. At seasons end Denver’s intimidating defensive was ranked seventh in the league in points per game.
The Broncos 2005 starting defensive linemen were Courtney Brown, Michael Myers, Gerard Warren and Trevor Pryce, three of whom were over the age of 30 at the time. A solid defense all starts with the line. On the line, penetration is key, aiding the secondary by hurrying the quarterback, or preventing the offensive line from reaching the linebackers. A defensive lineman’s job is to get in the offenses’ backfield. When defensive linemen get in the backfield, running backs find themselves lit up and defensive backs discover errant passes waiting to be intercepted. Penetration is just what the Broncos got out of their “old” 2005 defensive line, and is what they are hoping to get from the 2010 squad.
Weather the defensive line can perform this season is not as much of a question as is if they can hold up. Injuries can kill a season (see the 2008 Broncos), and 30+ year-old players are prone to acquire bumps and bruises. A common concern among fans is that the defensive line will be susceptible to injuries. So the question becomes, should we be worried about the defensive line?
The worst case scenario would be if all three linemen (Bannan, Williams and Green) got injured. If that highly unlikely scenario were to occur, the Broncos wouldn’t be in all that bad a situation, as Roland Fields, Ryan McBean and Marcus Thomas would presumably be the replacements, and all saw considerable playing time on defense last season. With a rotating defensive line and McBean and Fields starting most of the season, the Broncos ranked 12th in points allowed, and 7th in total yards allowed last season. So if a player or two were to go down the Broncos have players experienced in Denver’s system ready to step up.
Considering the Broncos have had successful “old” (which, by the way, is another word for experienced) defensive lines before, and currently have younger players who have starter experience, I don’t believe the defensive line should be too much of a cause for alarm. With increased bulk and depth the Broncos D-line has potential to surprise this season, causing havoc in offensive backfields.