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Published on 03/23/2012 at Fri Mar 23 11:30.
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A rotational defensive lineman entering his second season, Mitch Unrein recorded eight tackles last season. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

It seems like we have this conversation every off-season.

“On Denver’s roster, defensive tackle seems to be a big area of need, and the Broncos seemingly have done nothing about it,” commentators frequently write, rightfully so.  This off-season, the Broncos have already lost one defensive tackle (Brodrick Bunkley), and may be on the verge of losing another in Marcus Thomas.

Meanwhile, the team is yet to sign a defensive tackle in free agency.  While the team may still bring in one or more defensive tackles during free agency, fans need to also remember that the draft is approaching and Denver has a plan.

This year’s draft is deep at the defensive tackle position and as many as five DT’s are expected to go in the first round of selections alone (5-of-32 picks).  Relying on a rookie will not solve Denver’s problems in the interior of the line, but several prospects in the draft have the potential to become a cornerstone on Denver’s defensive line. 

Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox (6-4, 298), Penn State’s Devon Still (6-5, 303) and Connecticut’s Kendall Reyes (6-4, 299) are all options for Denver.  And there are still options in free agency.

“No big-name free agents worth bringing in,” I’m sure many of you might add.  Before the team signed Bunkley last off-season however, many of you were saying the same thing.  He ended up having a productive season.

On the roster, the team has Ryan McBean, Mitch Unrein, Kevin Vickerson, Ty Warren, Sealver Siliga and Jeremy Jarmon returning this season.  Warren is aging (turning 32) and while he potentially may have some gas left in the tank, we shouldn’t expect too much out of him.  McBean and Unrein were rotational players last season and Vickerson is a player who I think has a lot of potential and East keeps hammering me for bragging about him.

In my opinion, Vickerson deserves to be bragged about.  Signed by the Broncos early in the 2010 season, Vickerson came in and made a splash on Denver’s defense.  Starting in twelve games, Vickerson was a play-maker recording 42 tackles, 2.0 sacks, defending three passes, intercepting a pass and forcing a fumble.

After his impressive 2010 season, Vickerson signed a four-year deal with the team.  Five games into the 2011 season however, Vickerson suffered an injury and was placed on the injured reserve list.

An athletic defensive lineman, Vickerson, 6-5, 290, is entering his seventh season in the NFL and I believe he could have a breakout season.  Though others may not think he is much to brag about, I think Vickerson — paired up with an off-season acquisition or a drafted rookie — could help anchor the center of Denver’s defensive line this season.

If the team is able to re-sign Thomas and Vickerson reaches his full potential this season, the defensive tackle position would not be in dire situation many fans make it out to be.  With that said, it remains a position of need and the team will address it.

Have patience.

Before casting judgment on the Broncos’ roster, I would suggest waiting until training camp has drawn closer.  There are a lot of signings still to come in free agency and the draft is quickly approaching.  Denver will add more defensive tackles.

  • Ninjaix

    I agree, now that we have signed Porter I think the Broncos will draft 1. DT 2. RB 3. DT 4. maybe use the 2(4th) round picks to move back into the 3rd to take either a falling QB or CB or just take a QB and CB with those picks. We do have holes and needs but I agree they are not as dire as they appear I think we have a young team that needs the offseason and last season to mature and grow into their positions.

  • areferee

    Those points are cogent and well thought out.  Perhaps they are valid, as well, but it sounds a little like waiting until the fourth quarter to make your move offensively… and then putting in all rookies or older players to get the job done.

    I believe in patience too, but I also believe in turning over every stone when you are going fishing and don’t have enough worms.

  • Rbschaeffer22

    I like Worthy from Mighian St and Mike Martian from Michigan

  • Rbschaeffer22

    Denver needs to look at Ryan Lindley from SD st 

  • Man_one

    Agreed. And they are.

  • Man_one

    I liked Worthy too but he’s too sloppy and has too many ?’s to go at 25 I have concluded. I agree about Martin but I think he’ll go between our picks at 57 & 88.

  • Man_one

    Yes!
    I love the positivity about Vickerson. It will be huge for us for him to stay healthy. I hope we start hearing about the Broncos bringing some DT’s, specifically Derek Landri and Amobi Okoye. I also think Luis Castillo could be a superb fit but we don’t really need more veterans with injury concerns at the position.

    I think Cox is the #1 DT and will be long gone. Kendall Reyes shouldn’t go in the first round and Still scares me. Alot of people are projecting him to us but in watching his tape he looks like a third or fourth rounder for three quarters and then makes some splash plays.

    I really like Derek Wolfe from Cincy. Great motor, high character, loads of potential.
    He is slowly moving his way into late third round consideration.

    I also really like Malik Jackson from Tennessee. He plays LE as well as 3-tech. He has super long arms and great size at 6-5 285 lbs. Most importantly, he can get after the QB from the inside on 3rd downs. He’s looking like a fourth round prospect as well.

    Welp, guess we’ll see if Thomas is re-signed. I wouldn’t care too much about losing him.

    To Warren, Vickerson, and possibly Castillo’s health!!

  • Man_one

    Yes!
    I love the positivity about Vickerson. It will be huge for us for him to stay healthy. I hope we start hearing about the Broncos bringing some DT’s, specifically Derek Landri and Amobi Okoye. I also think Luis Castillo could be a superb fit but we don’t really need more veterans with injury concerns at the position.

    I think Cox is the #1 DT and will be long gone. Kendall Reyes shouldn’t go in the first round and Still scares me. Alot of people are projecting him to us but in watching his tape he looks like a third or fourth rounder for three quarters and then makes some splash plays.

    I really like Derek Wolfe from Cincy. Great motor, high character, loads of potential.
    He is slowly moving his way into late third round consideration.

    I also really like Malik Jackson from Tennessee. He plays LE as well as 3-tech. He has super long arms and great size at 6-5 285 lbs. Most importantly, he can get after the QB from the inside on 3rd downs. He’s looking like a fourth round prospect as well.

    Welp, guess we’ll see if Thomas is re-signed. I wouldn’t care too much about losing him.

    To Warren, Vickerson, and possibly Castillo’s health!!

  • Anonymous

    This article represents what is wrong in Denver.

    “Don’t fear, they have a plan.” That’s something you have said for two seasons now. How many times does it take to see Ryan Matthews and Darren McFadden just plain old abuse the defensive line for you to understand?
    You just can’t simply put a fat man on the defensive line and say that it will work out.

    Kevin Vickerson could have a breakout year? What in gods name makes you believe that? Just because Vickerson is a Bronco, and you want him to? He’ll be 30 before the season is over. I have nothing against him and I like him on the team, but he’s barely a starter in my mind.

    I used to think Marcus Thomas would eventually get it, but it’s obviously the ship has sailed on him being an elite prospect. Thomas is a rotational player at best.

    The defensive tackle position looks grim and it has for what seems like almost a decade now.

  • Vincemarine78

    I’m with you Jon!  I like Vickerson and what he brings in terms of his ability on the field. 

  • http://Facebook.com/BroncosZone Jon

    OK.

  • MeOMy

    I think that if Poe is still available at 9 or 10 we should trade up and grab him. I’d settle for Cox but I don’t think he will last till 25.

  • Anonymous

    Just like the “sky is falling” crowd they complain about every choice yet don’t come up with any viable solutions.  Shanny reached all the time, brought in over priced has beens and cast-offs and the defense continued to get worse.  This front office has shown that they have a plan and they stick to it, they repeatedly said this is a marathon not a sprint.  I do trust that Fox sees where we are weak and will figure out a way to shore it up.  I believe they have shown they are all in to try and build a winner so I am hesitant to lament every freaking signing or non-signing because I felt they could have done it better.

  • Vincemarine78

    La Canfora just reported that Tamme just signed with Denver.  Nice!  Peyton is going to have two pretty good TE’s to throw to!

  • yogi

    Obviously you want to get better at every position, but given that Denver has the personnel for a big play, fast strike offense…I wonder whether our run defense is even that critical? Weren’t NE, GB, NY fairly middle of the pack last year?

    Teams should be playing from behind against us…they’re not going to be running the ball a whole lot.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed but we still need a pass rush to collapse the pocket so Von Doom can do what they do best. 

  • Anonymous

    I’m not sold on Vickerson.  He hasn’t really done anything for me to say “yeah, he’s nice to have” but he hasn’t been bad either.  Just another average, aging, DT.  I’d like to see the FO give a long look at Pat Simms and Derek Landri.  Again, not studs but they can get the job done. 

    We still need to draft a DT tho.  Why it’s taken this long for us to fill the position of need is beyond me.  I’m not sold on Devon Still tho.  Something about him just gives me the feeling of “bust”.  I do like Brandon Thompson, just not at 25.  I think he’s going to be a good one in a couple of years. 

  • Anonymous

    I know we contacted Justin Bannan, so he might be coming back. I’m not sure what they are thinking they’re gonna get out of Ty Warren, but if he’s healthy, he’s a stud. After that, it’s draft time. We still have McBean, and probably bring back Vickerson. I really hope we keep Marcus Thomas, because, when his head is in it, he’s unstoppable. It’ll be interesting what he’s offered contract wise from other teams, cause he isn’t consistent enough to warrant us paying him top money. 

  • Anonymous

    Is there an “unlike” button? 
    Poe is a “Combine Stud”, not an actual stud. If I were to take everything I own and bet it on him being a bust, I would. He isn’t explosive, he gets pushed around too much, and he just doesn’t have good push. But hey, he’s fast and strong in the things that the combine tests for. His combine stats say “STUD”, but his game film says “BUST”. I’d stay away if I were EFXD. I’m sure Fox and DelRio are smart enough to know that it takes more than an impressive combine to make a player great at the NFL level.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed 1,000,000%.
    Fox always builds championship quality defenses. DelRio is the same and just got canned from Jacksonville who has a championship quality defense. There is no reason to believe they’ll change now.

  • Chiefhatersincebirth

    Devon Still will be the best DT out of this year’s crop of DTs. Dude isn’t a freak in drills (see Poe at Combine) but is a leader. Works through the whistle and played in a physical Big Ten conference. Played well against Alabama and looks like he has room to grow. Worthy will be … well Worthless in my opinion. Dude got owned by Nebraska’s crap O-line. I would take Cox and Thompson but really like Still.

  • Anonymous

     I agree that Poe is not worth trading up to get him, but if he were to fall to #25, I think you have to grab him.  I bet Fox and DelRio could turn that kid into a stud

  • Moore Feen

    I agree Mcfadden has been running all over us when he is actually on the field.  DT is a defnately need but you don’t base success on one player who plays against us once every two years to hurt us.  If the league was running on us, some good days, some bad I would be running but we will plug holes and be a decent team.  When you score more than 21 a game the other team passes not runs.  Peyton will be the DT we need (I know weird analogy) I will take our team in a shoot out and have our strength pass rushers make up for our inadequecies at the tackle position.

  • bigheadjoel

    How come nobody is talking about Ty Warren? Between him, Thomas, and the draft, our DT situation is going to be FINE. Both Warren and Thomas are high caliber starting defensive tackles, and we have several talented back ups we can utilize as well.

    Also, Julius Thomas is going to have a breakout year. He showed a ton of promise last year when Kyle Orton was throwing to him. After we brought in a weirdo offense where we could somehow win games with only completing 2 passes, he got sidelined because he’s not, and was never supposed to be, a blocking lineman. Injuries didn’t help either. 

    There are strong, strong pieces to this team that were put in place last year that never got the chance to show up during the season. I can’t wait to see them in 2012.

  • Anonymous

    If it’s a “championship quality” defense, then why do they have no championships?

  • Anonymous

    Wow. Are you kidding me? I am hardly saying that the sky is falling.

    However, the lack of defensive tackles is a huge problem. I have stated several viable solutions, so do your homework.

    This is a marathon? Really? That’s what signing a 36 year old quarterback is? This was a marathon with Tebow, now it’s a freaking 40 yard dash.

    Go ahead and be hesitant to lament every freaking singing or non signing, if you had the mindset with your job, you’d be fired. I don’t just blindly trust that everything is going to be fine, especially seeing how the Broncos haven’t been to a Super Bowl since 1998. 

    I also find it ironic that you talk about Shanny bringing in over paid cast-offs. What do you call Ty Warren? The Broncos of now have been doing the same crap.

    You can’t just put a fat man on the defensive line and think everything is going to be fine.

    The New York Giants have two Super Bowls in huge part due to their massively stacked defensive line.

  • Anonymous

    First off, no. Darren McFadden was not running over almost every defense in the NFL. Actually, McFadden only rushed for over 100 yards twice last season.

    Even if McFadden was a Terrell Davis or a CJ2K type player, you wouldn’t just be OK with him running all over you, because he’s him. That’s the lamest excuse I have ever heard.

    The Bills have stacked their defensive line and pass rush because they have to play Tom Brady twice a year. 

    Of course improving the defense will take time, but the front office has ignored the defensive line completely. That is not how you improve.

    How did Vickerson impress you in 2010? With his two sacks and twelve games started? You can’t just say someone is going to have a break out year, simply because you want them to.

  • Anonymous

    “Both Warren and Thomas are high caliber starting defensive tackles, and we have several talented back ups we can utilize as well.”
    No. None of them would even crack the Giants’ starting lineup or even rotation for that matter. Also, please name the talented back ups?

    I really do agree with you on Thomas though, he’s going to have a difficult time competing against Dressen and Tamme, but that be good for him.

  • Anonymous

    Probably for the same reasons that Dan Mario played at a championship level but never won one. It takes a team to win. If anyone should understand that, it’s us after going through last year. While a single player can elevate a team, it takes a total team effort to actually win.

  • Anonymous

    While you bring up very valid points, I still think we need to be prudent in allowing this organization time to rebuild the disaster left behind from hurricane Josh. With that being said, we do need to do something, and like you, this team has gone from a marathon to a sprint with that 1 transaction. Hopefully we draft a DT or 2, because something needs to be done to shore that line. The levies can’t withstand another hurricane without additional reinforcements.

  • http://Facebook.com/BroncosZone Jon

    I never thought I would be a homer for an Division rival, but apparently I am.  I think McFdden is a top-ten RB in the NFL right now (but I know, I’m completely wrong).

    As for the Bills, I am really glad Denver drafted Von Miller over Dareus, but that’s just my take on the matter.  Both the Bills and Broncos have brought in pass-rushers, Buffalo got one that can also stuff the run.

    And in the draft, I hoping Denver brings in a guy that can stop the run.  And if they don’t than I’m an idiot and was completely wrong and EFX didn’t have a plan and they suck and our entire defense will suck again like last year, apparently.

    I didn’t just pick Vickerson to have a breakout year because I want him to, I was impressed by the motor in 2010 and the way he always making plays.  He’s a play-maker, but obviously we disagree there.

    Denver seemingly has ignored the defensive line, but we do have Ty Warren and Vickerson coming back (and I know, their both bums so they don’t count) and Ben Garland will be able to play this year, as well (although I believe he is going to be defensive end, that’s still on the defensive line).

    I’m ready to move on, though.  During and after the season we’ll see who was right and was wrong, there’s no way to predict the future and it’s pointless for us to yap about it.  I respect your opinions and I realize I may be wrong, but this is just my take.

  • http://Facebook.com/BroncosZone Jon

    The Giants have a defensive line stacked full of pass rushers, we have those, too.

  • Anonymous

    Dan Marino wasn’t a coach, he wasn’t responsible for building the team.

    Whereas, the coach, well, he is.