Organized team activities continue this week for the Denver Broncos as they get one step closer to training camp. Which players on the defensive side of the ball should Broncos Country keep tabs on as the season gets closer?

A healthy Randy Gregory is a great thing for the Denver Broncos

Randy Gregory is back and has been a key participant during the Denver Broncos offseason program including being visible at practice.

Last season after the Broncos acquired him in NFL Free Agency, Gregory underwent an arthroscopic shoulder procedure that impacted his ability to participate in OTAs and Training Camp. Despite missing a majority of training camp, Gregory was ready to go Week 1 against the Seattle Seahawks where his impact was felt.

Not only did Gregory look the part that general manager George Paton brought him in for, he generated turnovers and created consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks through his first four games.

Unfortunately for him, Gregory dealt with a torn meniscus that held him out of action until around Week 15 when he made his return in 2022. The Broncos record was disastrous at that point and Paton decided to shut him down for the final two games of the season to protect the team’s investment in him.

During Broncos OTAs, Gregory looks tall, lean, fast, and physical. If he can remain healthy this season, he will establish himself as the Broncos premier pass rusher and could have a significant impact defensively in 2023.

Broncos fans have expressed concern about his durability, but he will have every opportunity to shut those concerns down if he can maintain a healthy playing status throughout this season.

So far in OTAs he has looked good.

Jonathon Cooper could be a significant role player this season

Competition is aplenty in Dove Valley and will be something to watch for various positions during training camp and the NFL preseason. Jonathon Cooper is a name that Broncos fans should keep their eyes on.

Wearing number zero, Cooper looked fresh during Broncos OTAs last Thursday. While the expected starters are projected to be Randy Gregory and Baron Browning, Cooper could very well still play a significant role defensively this season.

New defensive coordinator Vance Joseph will rely on a variety of players at edge rusher and defensive line in order to find and sustain any success this season. The NFL game has changed over the course of the last decade where defenses have to rely on more than just one pass rusher.

Cooper’s path to the NFL has been impressive considering his position as a role player in Denver’s defensive rotation.

His high motor, physical strength, and discipline should be maximized by Joseph this season.

The Broncos can be creative with how they utilize him by formulating different personnel packages. There could be times when Cooper could play on the outside while Gregory could slide to defensive end and vice versa.

He is one name to watch at edge rusher for Denver throughout OTAs.

New addition Zach Allen has the tools to set the tone

Zach Allen was one of the Broncos’ biggest off-season acquisitions during NFL Free Agency and has every tool and attribute possible to have a big impact on Denver, defensively.

One benefit Allen possesses coming into his first season with the Denver Broncos is his previous familiarity with Joseph. Joseph was the Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator when he was drafted and to this date will have had Joseph throughout the entire beginning of his career.

After having 5.5 sacks in just 13 games last season, Allen looks to increase those numbers this season.

While observing OTAs, what clearly stands out about Allen is his size and athleticism. He has a very quick first step, combined with disciplined hands where he knows where to strike and how to use his force and acceleration to generate pressure.

When seeing him in person, it makes sense why he was one of the NFL’s leaders in generating pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

In the 13 games he played last season, he had 25 pressures and 20 quarterback hits despite missing four games. His high motor stands out in a big way.

Naturally, Allen will have pressure on him in the eyes of fans because he was brought in to replace Dre’Mont Jones who departed in free agency. In 2022, both players had very similar production in the same amount of games played.

Caden Sterns is healthy and has bulked up

This upcoming season could be the first year we see Caden Sterns emerge as a full-time starter for the Denver Broncos. Throughout the first two seasons of his career, his level of production in such a small sample size has been extremely impressive.

He can play the middle of the field, he can float down into the box against the run. His skill set is maximized to contribute as a hybrid player in the defensive backfield.

After undergoing reconstructive hip surgery last season, Sterns looks like he’s fully healthy during Broncos OTAs.

Part of being a defensive back requires any player to be able to flip their hips fluidly to turn and run or adjust to a receiver’s route. He moved well during practice last week which helps alleviate some of the natural concerns somebody may have coming off of hip surgery.

Not only does Sterns’ athleticism look intact, but he appears to have bulked up in his upper body which only helps promote his ability to play inside the box for the Broncos defense if need be.

The key throughout training camp will continue to see how Denver utilizes Sterns with the return of Kareem Jackson and other players like P.J. Locke, Delarrin Turner-Yell and sixth-round rookie draft pick J.L. Skinner.

Is Jonathan Harris ready to step into a starting role?

While the Denver Broncos replaced Dre’Mont Jones with Zach Allen, the team still has question marks about who replaces DeShawn Williams who reunited with former defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero in Carolina during free agency.

Second-year players like Eyioma Uwazurike and Matt Henningsen are projected to be potential favorites for the other starting job at defensive end. However, Jonathan Harris could very well throw his name into the mix.

Having been on the Broncos roster dating back to 2019, Harris has maintained his role with the team for the past two years. While Denver dealt with injuries at the position last season, Harris started in four games for the Broncos and appeared in eight total.

The veteran defensive lineman might be an underdog to start heading into training camp, but his growth year over year is something the team’s personnel department and coaching staff led by Marcus Dixon on the defensive line can benefit from.

Harris will face competition from Henningsen, Uwazurike, and other players like Elijah Garcia, and undrafted rookie PJ Mustipher for a roster spot.

During OTAs, Harris has looked solid in position-specific drills, but the hardest part to evaluate for defensive lineman in general is that there is no physical contact permitted or allowed during this phase of the offseason program.

If Harris can continue to build on his previous experience and have an impressive camp, he could be a potential starter on defense this upcoming season.