With a 21-17 win over the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday ,we got our first real look at what the 2014 Denver Broncos will look like heading into the new season. Just like every preseason game, there were some good things and there were some bad things but I was pretty pleased with my first taste the new team. Unlike many fans I enjoy the preseason because it really gives you a chance to evaluate some of the other guys who are a little further down the depth chart. This was also the first chance to see the new and improved defense and with the first game in the books, lets take a look at some of the things I saw on the defensive side of the ball in tonight’s win.
First of all, I thought the defense played very well. It is becoming clear that Denver could very well have the deepest defensive line in the entire NFL. There are quite a few players on Denver’s defensive line that are getting number two reps, when they could easily be a starter on another team. It was good to see Denver get some pressure on the Seahawks throughout the game, and not just during the time the starters saw the field. Newly added pass rusher DeMarcus Ware made some noise during the limited reps that he saw. Ware managed to get some pressure on Russell Wilson a few times and even recorded a sack on the second passing play of the game.
I was also very impressed with the way Derek Wolfe played tonight. Wolfe suffered a neck injury during the preseason game against Seattle last season which led to further complications with his health as the season went on. While his presence was deeply missed on the defensive line last season, It was clear that playing football was the last thing that he needed to be doing. But tonight the 290 lb. Wolfe looked like his old self, fighting off double teams and meeting running backs in the hole. Whether he starts or comes off the bench, Derek Wolfe will see a lot of time, and that is exactly what Denver needs in order to keep the wins coming this season.
I thought that Quanterus Smith, Malik Jackson, Mitch Unrein and Marvin Austin also played a very good game tonight. Austin and Unrein were dialed in on their stunts, which resulted in a Marvin Austin sack on Tarvaris Jackson in the second half. Jackson came on strong towards the end of last year and picked up right where he left off tonight. He managed to sneak through the line and drop the hammer on Russell Wilson early in the game. Smith showed tremendous effort throughout the entire game and sometimes that is all you can ask of a defensive lineman. I did not see Smith quit on a single play, and if Denver can have a guy like that coming off the bench it will pay dividends late in games when everyone else is sucking wind.
Overall I was very pleased with the linebacker play throughout the game tonight. The game started with a very solid first quarter with Nate Irving at middle linebacker and ultimately finished with a game sealing interception by Steven Johnson. The Broncos put a lot of faith in Nate Irving this offseason when they didn’t go after a true mike linebacker in either the draft or free agency and based on his performance tonight, he didn’t let anyone down. The linebacker corps that is Nate Irving, Danny Trevathan and Von Miller could be a thing of beauty when they really start clicking with the defensive line. The Broncos fierce front seven is going to be scary good.
Last but not least I thought the secondary played okay. Russell Wilson didn’t get the chance to throw the ball too often, but I still fell like the secondary gave up a few plays that they shouldn’t have. However, I do like how physical the defensive backs looked tonight in comparison to last year. Aqib Talib showed us all that he’s not afraid of a little contact as he put nice hit on a Seattle receiver and although he did get banged up on the play and his durability is questionable, you have to respect the guy for sticking his nose in there which is something that corner backs don’t usually do. I think T.J. Ward had a good game for the most part if you take out all of the penalties. I liked seeing T.J. Ward playing up closer to the line, he is very capable of stopping the run and putting some pressure on the quarterback. Jack Del Rio showed that he’s more than willing to send Ward on a blitz every so often and it seemed to work as Ward logged a sack on the evening. The depth is a little bit of a concern in my opinion. Bradley Roby had a solid game when the two’s and three’s came in, but other than that I wasn’t too impressed with anyone else. With the return the best slot corner in the game right now in Chris Harris Jr., the secondary could do some damage if they can stay healthy.
It is gong to be a thing of beauty when all three defensive units really start to click. As the Broncos continue to get healthy, the defense will only get better. The term “Orange Crush” get tossed around quite a bit, but we could very well be looking at the new “Orange Crush”.