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Broncos Camp Football

Denver Broncos defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson (99) puts on his helmet during NFL football training camp on Saturday, July 30, 2011, at the team's practice facility in Englewood, Colo. (AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez)

Since former Denver Broncos Head Coach Josh McDaniels was fired last December, a lot of changes have gone down in Dove Valley.  The team started by bringing in John Elway as the Executive Vice President of Football Operations and hiring former Carolina Panthers Head Coach John Fox.  (And yes, this all will relate to the defensive tackle position, just keep reading.)

There’s a rumor that Elway knows something about the quarterback position and front office affairs (he was the owner of an indoor football team for a few years) and Fox knows a thing or two about defense and productive rushing attacks.  That’s good news because at the end of last season the Broncos had one of the worst defenses in the NFL and a gruesome running game.

We’re now a few months down the road and both areas appear to have vastly improved.  In the draft, the team drafted massive Miami offensive lineman Orlando Franklin to help pave running lanes and after the draft the team signed UDFA Auburn running back Mario Fannin.  The team also acquired free agent running back Willis McGahee, a player that will bring a physicality that Denver’s backfield has been missing for quite some time.

The team also brought in several tight ends, including former St. Louis RamsDaniel Fells, who is also a fullback prospect.  More blocking tight ends will result in an improved rushing attack.  Add in the fact that this is a make-or-break year for running back Knowshon Moreno, who will getting heavy competition from McGahee, and the Broncos running game has all the potential to make leaps and bounds towards dominance. 


Dumervil recorded 43 sacks through his first four seasons in Denver. (AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez)

The defensive side of the ball has seen similar improvements — starting with the addition of former Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller.  The pass rushing skills that Miller brings to the team are possibly only matched by those of defensive end Elvis Dumervil, who will be returning this year after missing all of the 2010 campaign due to injury.  The return of Dumervil alone will tremendously improve Denver’s defense.

Joining Dumervil on the line will be Robert Ayers, who will be moving back to his natural defensive end position that he thrived in throughout his collegiate career at Tennessee.  Former outside linebacker Jason Hunter will also be moving to defensive end where he will join rookie Jeremy Beal as rotational ends.

 Behind rush specailists Doom and Ayers are the linebackers, where there is remarkable depth.  Returning linebacker Joe Mays and rookie Nate Irving will battle it out in training camp for the rights to anchor the interior, with Wesley Woodyard competing for it as well.  On the outside, returning linebacker D.J. Williams will line up across from Miller.  The next level is the secondary, where the Broncos have a talent level equal to that of the linebackers’.

The team made two great moves by locking up Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey earlier in the year and restructuring fellow veteran safety Brian Dawkins‘ contract, keeping both leaders in Denver.  Dawkins will be joined by rookie Rahim Moore as the two safeties and Bailey will probably be joined by Andre Goodman. 

Behind Dawkins and Moore is rookie Quinton Carter, and youngsters David Bruton and Darcel McBath.  The cornerbacks that will be pushing Goodman for playing time will be Cassius Vaughn and Syd’Quan Thompson (cornerback Perrish Cox is facing suspension and legal troubles).

Let’s review:  the running game looks to improve and every defensive position had been upgraded — excluding the defensive tackle position, right?  Perhaps not.  One thing Denver hasn’t done is sign a big-time defensive tackle for big bucks that may not fit the system properly and be a cause for a lot of dead money down the road.  And fans are upset about that?

Listen up, Fox knows defense and he knows what he is doing.  The Broncos have a plan for this defense and a plan at the defensive tackle position.  Did it ever occur to Bronco fans that perhaps the reason Denver has not been heavily pursuing defensive tackles first in the draft and then in free agency may be because they have plans for the players already on the roster?

“We’re excited about the scheme that John Fox is running, it will give Marcus Thomas a chance to reach his potential and do what he does best which is penetrating to get up field to cause chaos in the backfield.”   Those were the words of  Thomas’ agent, Richard Burnoski shortly after his client re-signed with Denver (quote per Josina Anderson).  There’s a chance that Burnoski is on to something.


Would the holdover defensive tackles please raise your hand? (AP Photo/Sang Tan)

Holdovers Kevin Vickerson, Ryan McBean and Marcus Thomas will be returning, and rotating with Louis Leonard as the main defensive tackles, as it stands now.  Add in Jeremy Jarmon, who was acquired in a trade that sent receiver Jabar Gaffney to Washington, and Denver has five experienced defensive tackles on the roster.

That’s five players to fill two positions on the depth chart.  Where’s that huge need for a defensive tackle?  The Broncos may not have big, All Star defensive tackles, but John Fox never really has.  Carolina’s depth chart has featured “undersized” interior linemen throughout much of Fox’s career, but that didn’t stop the Panthers’ defense from ranking in the top ten nearly every season under Fox.

There’s also a possibility that Denver will still sign another defense tackle — adding more depth to the position.  Reportedly, the Broncos have made an offer to former New England Patriots defensive tackle Ty Warren.  Now Warren is exploring his options.  If he were to sign with Denver, Warren would solidify depth at the position and give the Broncos 300 pounder.

Even if Warren doesn’t sign with the team, Denver already has five players that will see playing time at defensive tackle this year, as was mentioned above.  Fox will utilize what he has to work with and place players in the best situations suited for them — resulting in a smooth rotation at defensive tackle.

Be not dismayed, there is a plan at defensive tackle and Denver’s coaches have confidence with the players on the team.  Wait until you see them play live, together, in Fox’s system before you cast judgment.  You may just be surprised.

  • Jnb1974

    Good article, I believe you're right. Our defensive tackle position isn't as bad as one might think, although we could use one more, it is a brutal position and injuries are common. We could use another good experienced cornerback in my opinion. Linebackers look real good to me, I'm excited with the experience and phycisca ability. Defensive end may end up with another all-pro player again. I see the potential for 3 all-pro players on defense or at least in the running. I really believe we will have a stud defense. Offense is a project in the making, Orton, Moreno, Royal, Clady have to prove themselves as leaders. Lendale White can be a force if he gets his act together and a good compliment to Magahee. If they can re-establish the zone blocking they may more success, which is what appears they are trying to do by bringing in bigger tightends. Overall the Broncos should be able to play .500 ball this year. Don't get too excited yet, they have tough schedule and need to gel as a team.

  • JNB1974

    Dude, cut some slack, you're Irish temper may be clouding good judgement. Although you may be right about some things (DT,RB,CB), but you can't change everything immediately. McDaniels crippled this team and it is going to take awhile to turn it around. They certainly will be better than last year and I don't believe they going to sacrifice the season to get Luck. I see them as 5-11, 6-10.

  • mountiandave

    Maybe a dumb question,but there were 2 DTs on the UDFA list. Neither shows up on the roster, where are they, are they gone already? What am I missing?  Whitlock and Brown were supposed to be  pretty good finds at that point , Whitlock drew a fair amount of praise.  Or were they just camp fodder?

  • flbronc

    apparently, according to kils of the dp, we are signing derrick harvey.

  • JNB1974

    I agree with most everything you said, but they won't throw Tebow in the fire unless they have to. Beating Texas was great, but beating above average and great NFL teams consistently is a tall order. In my opinion he is not ready, he looked confused and inexpeienced as well as he should. Let Elway show him the way to success. He's a winner for sure, but still a raw talent, let him watch and learn. That's why the Broncos gave Orton the 1.6 mil.

  • Ginodm67

    Crazykid.  That has already been addressed.

  • DenverFaithful

    hand tebow the keys to the offense. if he succeeds, we have our QB of the future. if he crashes and burns, then we have a great shot to land luck, landry jones, or matt barkley. all three of them would be awesome to have. Let Tebow make his own bed. dont hold him back. as far as the running game goes, let knowshon have the chance to back up all this pre-season hype. im excited to see if he can return to his georgia form. if not, i hope we utilize lendale white. the guy looked great before he got hurt, and he is a bruising runner- the peyton hillis type. the jury is still out on mcgahee for me. im not quite sure what to think of the signing. added depth? maybe. maybe not. only time will tell. im looking forward to seeing what eric decker can do. i watched him during his days at the U of minnesota, and i was very impressed. he torched the best DBs in the big ten. as for all of you who think lloyd is a one-hit wonder, i agree with you… kinda. while he may not put up the monster numbers we saw last year, i have faith that he can still be a reliable down-field threat, as well as a dynamic pass-catcher. i just hope that when Bay-Bay returns in november, he can be the “heir to the throne”. mcdaniels saw something in this guy. if he didnt, he surely wouldve taken dez bryant over him. im also very excited to see what julius thomas can do. lets remember, he is a basketball player-turned-football player. does that remind you of anyone..? maybe a certain someone who has dominated us for the past several years? yes. we just might have the next antonio gates on our hands. utilize him. now clady's back to full health. he should regain all-pro status. orlando franklin could be the next orlando pace. i mean, they do have the same first name:) all jokes aside, i truly believe that the denver offense has the tools to be successful and to keep the team competitive against the top teams. will our guys step up? only time will tell.

  • Jon

    They are on the roster, I just didn't mention them because they haven't played before…

    “Denver has five experienced defensive tackles on the roster.”

  • Ginodm67

    The Miami Herald states that the Broncos/Dolphins may still be working on a trade for Orton.  Michael Lombardi with the NFL channel thinks the two teams are playing chicken with each other and a trade could take place in a week or two; during which Orton will receive 1st team reps to “convince” the Dolphins that we could just keep Orton.  The Broncos would be reimbursed the 1.5 mil by any team wanting Orton.  The Bengals may also realize they need a veteran QB since Palmer is not coming back. 
       On the down side, most reports of the Broncos training camp say that Tebow doesn't seem to have improved upon his bad habits and Orton looks far superior.  Tebow has made some really good plays, but is inconsistent.  What would you expect from a QB who didn't get 1st string snaps last summer and only played 3 games at the end of the year and had no offseason training from Broncos coaches.  Let's hope Tebow can catch up some and make a lot of headway between now and August 11.  We may have to watch Orton one more year.  If so, let's still root for our team and hope for an improved run game and defense.

  • Ginodm67

    I remember when the Broncos hired McD.  I jokingly stated to my wife at that time that Kraft and Belicheck helped convince Bowlen to hire McD because the Broncos were the one team the Patriots had a difficlt time with, in fact had a losing record against us.  I joked that McD was a 'plant' sent to sabotage our team and set us back 5 years or so.  Enough time for Brady and Belicheck to get a few more rings and then retire.  I also remember the picture of McD with a huge grin on his face taken as he left Broncos HQ after being fired.  You know what…….I'm really starting to believe in my precognitive joke.  It's not just what McD did to our existing team when he came and the draft picks, it's what he didn't do-what he should've done to improve the team.  If you look at it, it almost looks intentional.  I sure hope Tebow wasn't an unwitting part of that 'evil scheme'.  I hope T can pull it off and improve on his difficiencies and “Reverse the Curse” of McD (first coined by me if it takes), and supplant Orton.

  • herc_rock

    Dude, you need to start laying the wood to some of these dipshits.  You're way too polite.

  • mountiandave

    Thanks Jon, I wasn't questioning your work, they are not  on the bronco site roster, and I was not sure why.

  • herc_rock

    I would like to have seen a bigger push to get a “name” DT, but oh well.  We'll be better on D simply due to regression to the mean. 

    Also, lets not forget how Elvis was the worst D lineman in the league against the run when we were running a 4-3…

  • areferee

    I agree completely with two parts of your diatribe:

    “The only thing that has occurred to me is…” …”HORSE SH(*)T”…

  • Josh Temple

    I do agree that D.J. should've received a pro bowl nod 2 years ago.  Without his monster hit on Roy Williams I don't think we win that Cowboys game.

  • Josh Temple

    Vickerson was a great surprise, not sure about how he'll transition to defensive tackle.  That other DT spot?  Bandaids.

  • Jon

    He's buffed up… 16 pounds and you can really tell.

  • Josh Temple

    I agree with your D. Thomas statement, people saying he should be cut are ridiculous.  After watching him in the Seattle game last year, you have to ride that pony until his contract is up and see where it takes you.

  • herc_rock

    Is he still 5'9″?   j/k

    Anyone look like a total fatass?  Have you been down there?

  • MrEast

    He was rude. However, he has some several good points.

  • MrEast

    No, Bmarsh won that one.

  • Josh Temple

    Williams, BMarsh, Dawkins, and Bailey won that one.

  • Jon

    Sadly, I'm not going to make it to any of training camp this year =/ Next year though!

    But yeah, Doom actually looks like a defensive lineman now.

  • herc_rock

    It doesn't matter how good your point is when you start it like that.  

    I didn't even read it. I can't stand 500+ word comments with idiot punctuation and styling.

  • herc_rock

    All that extra weight, I hope he didn't lose any speed…

  • crazykid

    no shit sherlock

  • Jackson3793

    Good article and gets to the point … don't count your eggs before they're hatched.  Fox, Allen, and Co. (almost all of the defensive coaches are new) are good at putting together that side of the ball.  I'm actually really excited to see what the Broncos end up doing, and as you pointed out, I'm not too worried about DT because I'm waiting to reserve judgement.

    I am a bit concerned about the running game this year though.  White says he's at 100%, but he's down 25 lbs. from his bruiser running days in Tennessee and is suffering back spasms already.  Moreno is, well, Moreno–if he stays healthy and manages to be a bit better at reading and maximizing holes, he could be good, but hasn't shown much yet.  And he's also down 20 lbs. from last year (here's hoping that his offseason strength training made him faster and harder to tackle as well as quite a bit lighter).  McGahee could be quite good.  The only reason he's not the main guy in Baltimore is due to the emergence of Rice, but the same could have been said about Buckhalter in 2009.  The biggest difference here being that McGahee is healthy, and Buckhalter first showed up to Denver on crutches.  I have no idea about Fannin, but I hear he's turning heads in practice already.

    My biggest concern for the running game comes from the offensive line, however.  Rookies rarely do well in NFL lines, and while I have no doubt that Franklin will be able to plow holes, I'm more concerned about his pass protection and ability to coordinate with the rest of the line on the zone blocking schemes.  For that matter, I'm also worried about the rest of the line with regards to the new zone blocking.  New protection schemes have disruptive effects on any offensive line.  But then again, the power scheme McDaniels was using last year didn't work at all, so I guess it can't get much worse.  I'm more concerned about whether or not it gets any better.

  • MrEast

    I'll agree to that.

  • Ginodm67

    Like you knew that when you posted it?  It was a dead subject, or did you read?  Or maybe you just like being a  All you can contribute?

  • 12508

    I AGREE WITH IRISHBRONCO. This team is crap. Hope? I would rather be good and know it. I'm tired of hope. Get some players in here who can play on the 1st team. I dont want third string players from the XFL that we hope to turn around. OH THE ONLY THING I HOPE IS THAT XANDERS GETS FIRED. How can he still be around after all the damage he has done?

  • MrEast

    Yeah, but mostly BMarsh.

  • crazykid

    or maybe i was being sarcastic and making fun of the haters who commented above me?

  • Ddejong4

    kris jenkins was also a late round draft pick if i remember right so whos to say he cant develop one of our guys like he did with jenkins

  • Ddejong4

    kris jenkins was also a late round draft pick if i remember right so whos to say he cant develop one of our guys like he did with jenkins