Kentucky’s Josh Paschal could solidify a Broncos pass rush that desperately needs depth

Kentucky Wildcats defensive back Davonte Robinson (9), defensive end Josh Paschal (4), defensive lineman Josaih Hayes (99) and linebacker DeAndre Square (5) celebrate a stop during the second quarter against the Florida Gators at Kroger Field.
Oct 2, 2021; Lexington, Kentucky, USA; Kentucky Wildcats defensive back Davonte Robinson (9), defensive end Josh Paschal (4), defensive lineman Josaih Hayes (99) and linebacker DeAndre Square (5) celebrate a stop during the second quarter against the Florida Gators at Kroger Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

While the Broncos have made moves to improve the defensive front this offseason, they still severely lack the depth needed to be a top pass-rush unit in the league. With players in the current free agency pool dwindling, the Broncos are left with the draft to hopefully improve this position group not only for now but for the future.

Currently, the edge position on the Broncos roster has four players that stand out from the rest. Slated to start are Bradley Chubb and Randy Gregory while their backups are Malik Reed and Jonathon Cooper.

Chubb and Gregory have had their fair share of injuries through the years making it improbable that Broncos Country will see both players on the field for all 17 regular-season games. Depth is important to have through the defensive front regardless but the injury history between the two starting players make it that much more pressing of a need. With this in mind, Broncos general manager George Paton has to consider the possibility that Reed, Cooper, or both, could be in for a significant role this season if moves to improve upon their depth aren’t made.

Luckily for the Broncos, draft season is upon us and this year’s class is rich in edge rushers. Specifically, the University of Kentucky’s Josh Paschal could offer the Broncos a long-term answer at a position of need.

Strengths

Notably, Paschal loves football and overcame a lot to get eventually get back on the field. In August of 2018, Paschal was diagnosed with malignant melanoma after a spot on the bottom of his right foot was bothering him. In this scary time of his life, Paschal showed an array of personality traits any team in the NFL would invite into their locker room with open arms. After undergoing multiple surgeries and treatments, Paschal would make his return to the field showing an absolute love for football. Matter of fact, he was even quoted as saying, “I was so anxious to get back. I had a whole season ahead of me when I found out about everything and I just really wanted to get back.”

During this time Paschal also showed tremendous leadership skills being in constant communication with teammates. Paschal even became somebody the team rallied behind and motivated.

As an athlete, Paschal has very unique measurables standing at 6-foot-3 and weighing in at 278 pounds. More stocky than your average edge rusher, this frame serves him in a multitude of ways.

For instance, Paschal has a frame that allows him to be very versatile in his alignments. He can play standing up or with his hand in the dirt and can rush from the interior or edge. He is very unique in that way and can fit various fronts, making him an option for all 32 teams.

Linearly Paschal shows good explosion as he displays a quick first step off the blocks. Pairing this with a very hefty lower half makes him a fantastic power rusher. While he may not bend like a Von Miller, Paschal’s power allows him to cause havoc on the pocket, pushing and rag dolling offensive lineman, ultimately getting pressure or muddying the pocket.

As a run defender, Paschal was very effective last season. Consistently firing off the ball with great pad level and power, he was able to stonewall opposing linemen and was an absolute mismatch for tight ends. Pairing this with an extremely hot motor, Paschal could become a fantastic NFL run defender as he develops past his rookie season.

If drafted to a team like the Broncos with two starting edge players already in place, a creative defensive coordinator could take advantage of Paschal’s versatility by playing him in multiple alignments and could even find ways to get all three players on the field at once in certain scenarios.

Concerns

While Paschal’s unique style of play is intriguing, there are plenty of concerning areas of his game that should not go unnoticed.

Specifically, he does not have the ideal length for an NFL edge rusher and through Paton’s time with the Vikings and short time with the Broncos, length seems to be something he values quite highly. As Broncos Country has seen with Reed and Cooper, length limitations can most definitely cause issues. For Paschal in particular, this is most seen in pursuit where he doesn’t have a fantastic tackle radius.

As mentioned earlier, Paschal is more of a power rusher. At 278 pounds he does not have great agility or bend from the edge, limiting his toolbox and plan of attack in pass-rush situations.

While the lack of bend and agility can be compensated with technique, Paschal is also a work in progress in this department. At the moment, Paschal needs to work on his plan of attack. He often struggles to string pass rush moves together and can have a hard time with his hand placement on occasion.

Conclusion

All in all, Paschal could make a lot of sense for the Broncos who desperately need insurance behind Chubb and Gregory. Excelling in multiple key areas his floor is high enough to play spot minutes through this next season while having enough concerns that can be improved upon to play an even larger role in the future. With Chubb’s contract coming to an end soon, this could potentially bring immense value not only this season but for the foreseeable future.

If Paschal is a player on the Broncos’ radar, they should feel comfortable selecting him as early as their second-round pick. Coaches speak glowingly of Paschal and he is the exact type of personality that could help contribute to a winning culture.

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