The Denver Broncos coaching staff is filling out underneath new head coach Sean Payton. For defensive coordinator Vance Joseph — can he learn from some of his mistakes during his first stint in Denver?

Denver Broncos hoping Vance Joseph’s second stint leads to more growth

The last time Vance Joseph was a member of the Denver Broncos coaching staff was in 2017-2018 when he served as the team’s head coach. Much has changed since his previous tenure with the Broncos, but there is hope that he has learned from some of his previous mistakes.

In Joseph’s first stint with the Broncos, he was a young defensive-minded first-year head coach. Prior to that, he was the defensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins.

Pegged as a leader of men, Joseph was great at connecting with players during his reign as head coach. However, as losses piled up, the young Broncos head coach at the time faced the duality of being a first-time head coach and the pressure that came with coaching the Denver Broncos who won Super Bowl 50 just two years prior to his arrival.

Schematically, not much will change for Denver’s defense. They’ll more than likely continue to run a 3-4 scheme that looks a lot similar to Ejiro Evero’s. Depending on who the Broncos play against, it wouldn’t come as a shock to see them playing heavy dime and nickel sets throughout the season.

Where can Vance learn from his prior mistakes in Denver? When it comes to personnel, understanding where a player offers the best value is important. In 2017, Joseph took DeMarcus Walker from the defensive interior where he thrived at Florida State, and moved him to outside linebacker.

Things didn’t work out for Walker after the position change in Denver, but it created questions as to whether or not Joseph knew how to maximize his personnel.

Following his departure from the Broncos, he signed on to be the defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals for the last four seasons. During his time there, he moved Haason Reddick from inside linebacker to outside linebacker prior to Reddicks’ departure from the team to the Philadelphia Eagles, showcasing growth in the department of personnel utilization.

Perhaps the responsibilities of being a head coach and having your hands in the pot of the defense weren’t the best decisions for Joseph when he was last in Denver. Many Broncos fans expressed their displeasure about the hiring of Joseph, but let’s put some things into perspective for a moment.

Denver’s regime this time around is entirely different than Joseph’s previous experience.

Also, the Cardinals’ defense was decimated by injuries to various key players last season. Another element that impacted the defense and their productivity was the Cardinals’ offensive side of the ball and their struggles with Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray.

Similar to what the Broncos have experienced, the Cardinals’ offense struggled to sustain drives and score, leading to the defense being on the field more than they should have.

Are there areas among last season’s struggles that Joseph could have improved on? Absolutely, but the world of coaching revolves around continuing to learn and grow as a play-caller. Denver is a brand new opportunity for Joseph and he deserves the benefit of the doubt from the fanbase until proven otherwise in 2023.

Now, Joseph gets to focus solely on the defense where he can hopefully get the best out of the Broncos’ current personnel which features Patrick Surtain, Justin Simmons, Randy Gregory, Baron Browning, and others. It’s worth noting that in Joseph’s final year with the Broncos, Bradley Chubb (12) and Von Miller (14.5) exploded in the pass rush department, combining for 26.5 sacks.

Last season the Broncos failed to have a pass rusher or anybody on defense register double-digit sacks. As a matter of fact, the Broncos’ defense finished tied for 23rd in sacks, registering only 36 last year.

In his final season before retiring, J.J. Watt had 12.5 sacks in 2022 in Joseph’s defense. In 2021, Cardinals pass rusher Markus Golden had 11 sacks while Chandler Jones had 10.5.

If Joseph can help Denver’s defense generate more quarterback pressures and sacks with Gregory, Browning, and others, they’ll be better in 2023 than they were this past season.

Players like Surtain, Damarri Mathis, and Simmons with their ability to play man-to-man coverage — will be useful when Joseph looks to dial up various blitzes to get after opposing quarterbacks.

Some good news for the Broncos’ defense with the hire of Joseph is that defensive backs coach Christian Parker and defensive line coach Marcus Dixon will remain on the coaching staff under Sean Payton’s control. Joining them will be Greg Manusky and Michael Wilhoite — who will coach inside linebackers and outside linebackers respectively.

What’s next? The Denver Broncos will continue to finalize their coaching staff before heading off to Indianapolis this week for the NFL Scouting Combine.