At the Head Coaches’ league meeting in Orlando, Denver Broncos Head Coach Vance Joseph gave a lengthy interview regarding the state of the franchise heading into next month’s draft. There were a lot of questions asked toward Joseph and he answered them in typical VJ style – cool, calm and intellectual.
Going into this draft and free agency period I’ve had a few concerns, since seeing this interview he has put a few of my concerns onto the back burner making me feel good about the unit I watch the most – the defense. With the Adam Gotsis arrest, Derek Wolfe suspected career threatening neck injury, and the under utilization of 2nd round pick from 2017, DeMarcus Walker, the only player worth tooting his own horn this offseason was, Demato Peko. The Broncos traded for Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive captain Clinton McDonald to add to the mix, and a delighted VJ raved about his leadership role despite only being a rotational guy.
When asked about the health of Wolfe, Joseph went on to answer a few more questions at the same time:
“He’s fine. He’s ready to go. He’s excited about the offseason. Obviously signing Clinton McDonald—that guy was a pretty good inside rusher for Tampa last year. That’s why we signed him—to get more push. DeMarcus Walker came on strong. That guy, we forget about him—a second-round pick—but he came on strong last year and made some plays late in the season. He should get bigger and stronger and help us push the pocket inside.”
So, from that it looks like Walker, Wolfe, Peko, McDonald and Gotsis could form another good run defense line and hopefully aid the pass rush, as well. Throw into the mix the under appreciated rotational guys in Zach Kerr, Kyle Peko and Shelby Harris and we have the makings of a very solid unit. I still think the Broncos would be foolish to ignore defensive line in the draft, hopefully it allows a development tackle or end to come in from the later rounds of the draft, rather than use early picks.
My biggest issue last season was with the linebackers. I know Ray and Barrett were injured at stages over the season and that hurts, but with no real balance to a pass rush or effective cover package it seemed the defense just played to stop the run and nothing else. I’ve made no secret in hoping the Broncos draft Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds with the 5th pick and during the interview with coach Joseph I think I may get my wish if the Broncos remain at 5.
“ Having nine draft picks, it’s going to be fun to finally draft a guy that Reggie can develop and become a full-time player for us. We’ve drafted lower-round guys and free agents more often at inside backer but we have a chance to draft a guy maybe higher. That’s going to be fun to watch Reggie coach.”
Throw in the comments about Ray and Barrett and the linebacker unit would possibly become top 10.
“Shane was injured. He came back and played with that hand but it was tough. It was sore, he couldn’t bend it, he had no flex in it. We’ll get Shane Ray back. I thought Shane was coming on. He’s excited about being opposite of Von and helping rush the passer. Even Shaq, as you watched the cutups from the season, I thought Shaq played well. He played very solid. But to have Shane back is going to help Von get more 1-on-1s.”
I think coach Joseph has seen the error in his ways from last season. Having no-one opposite Von hurt the whole team. Playing DeMarcus Walker at outside linebacker stunted his growth and the evidence was pretty clear once Ray came back and Walker moved back inside with the Wolfe injury. All-in-all, the linebackers unit is missing a star to compliment Von Miller.
With the trade of Aqib Talib to the Rams and Bradley Roby having to compete with Tremaine Brock (per Vance), I’m not too sure how Chris Harris Jr will fair as the number 1. He’s my personal favourite player and nobody can cover in the slot like CHJ. The signing of Brock during free agency was designed to add depth to the outside corner positions, but maybe it will lead to Roby to covering the slot and Harris becoming the cover partner of Brock or Langley. This is an area of concern that may need addressing in the draft earlier than needed had they kept Talib. VJ is still high on Langley despite a rough baptism of fire at the back end of last season.
“Speaking of just raw talent and raw ability, he has it all. He’s got it all, but again he has to learn how to play the position and develop technique and confidence to go out there and do it right. At corner, it’s like playing tackle. If you’re not good technique-wise, you’re going to give us big plays. When he played last year, his lack of success was because of technique. It wasn’t physical ability…He’s got to help us there. If he’s going to be our third or fourth corner, he’s got to get better on teams and dress every week and help us win games. Last year, Rios came on and really beat him out for the fourth corner spot as a free agent corner. He did some good things for us also. But Langley, we’re counting on him to get better because physically he has what it takes. He’s got to get better mentally.”
Overall I like the noises coming from coach Joseph about our defensive unit. He wants leaders, which leads to unit accountability, and win at all costs mentality. I think he’s doing the same with his coaches. Linebacker coach Reggie Herring will coach the linebackers; however, Von Miller now be with defensive line coach Bill Kollar. Joseph confirmed that no pass rusher coach will replace Fred Pagac “at this time.” It’s a nice tweak allowing Miller to concentrate on rushing the passer while the others do linebacker drills. It could mean the Broncos adopting a 4-4 formation on certain downs and distance with 4 pass rushers and 4 linebackers.