Posted Fri Apr 6th by Chris Schmaedeke
Over the past decade, no position has been more troublesome for the Denver Broncos than defensive tackle.
Through the years the Broncos have tried to bring players to fill that void and have failed miserably at it. Free agents Gerard Warren, Sam Adams, Dewayne Robertson, and Jamal Williams have all been busts. Drafted players Marcus Thomas and Monsanto Pope have never been able to make an impact. Ty Warren was picked up and never even made it on the field last season.
Broncos fans need to ask the question: Where is the next Trevor Pryce?
Pryce was a first round pick of the Broncos in the 1997 draft. The team was coming off terrible playoff loss to Jacksonville where the Wild-Card Jaguars ran for 203 yards against a stunned Denver defense. The No. 1 seed Broncos were knocked out before you could blink.
Pryce, who started out at Michigan but transferred to Clemson, was picked with the 28th pick. On the 1997 Super Bowl winning team, Pryce played in eight games while starting in three. He had 16 tackles and two sacks while being Michael Dean Perry’s backup.
When Perry was let go, Pryce become the full-time starting DT for the Broncos and he made the most his starting opportunity next to Keith Traylor. The second-year player had 8.5 sacks and was a key cog in the defense the second Super Bowl winning team. Although the Broncos struggled in 1999, Pryce had 13 sacks. The Broncos made a return to the playoffs in 2000 and Pryce was again a beast with 12 sacks. All of this coming from the defensive tackle position.
After recording seven sacks in in 2001, the Broncos moved Pryce to defensive end to capitalize on his passing rushing abilities. He never reached double digit sacks again in Denver but was a starter on the 2005 team that made the AFC Championship Game. That proved to be his last game with the Broncos. Pryce played five season with the Ravens and one with the Jets after his Broncos career.
Pryce was small compared to today’s defensive tackles. He was 6-foot-5, which is tall, but weighed under 300 pounds. Most teams are now looking for tackles well over 300 pounds. All of the premier tackles in the league like Haloti Ngata, Ndamukong Suh, and Vince Wilfork all play over 300 pounds. The big run stuffer is what the NFL is looking for. The Broncos have tried that though. Williams was old and out of shape, Ty Warren may never be healthy, and Adams was a complete no-show. The team should go back to a Pryce-like player.
But is that player actually out there is this year’s draft? LSU’s Michael Brockers and Memphis’ Dontari Poe are both well over 300 pounds and fit the run stuffer persona. Two players that are on the Broncos’ radar are Jevel Worthy from Michigan State and Devon Still from Penn State. Both players are just at or around 300 pounds and could have a Pryce like impact.
Since 2001, the Broncos have been trying to recreate the production Pryce had at defensive tackle. His 42.5 sacks, his four Pro Bowls, and three All-Pro selections will be hard to replace. A player anywhere close to Pryce’s ability would benefit a lot of players on the defense.
Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil will get the quarterback more. The linebackers would be free to roam and make more tackles. Al Wilson was the middle linebacker during a lot of Pryce’s tenure and fans know what kind of player he was. The secondary will become stronger as teams will be forced to pass more because the run will not work thus giving the defense an advantage of knowing what is coming.
That player could be out there in this year’s draft. Do the Broncos have the guts and moxie to draft a defensive tackle in the first round again? John Elway and John Fox have proved they are willing to take risks. They should draft a defensive tackle at 25 and hope it is 1997 all over again.