Stopping the run has been a key emphasis for the Denver Broncos personnel decisions this offseason. However, don’t forget about the run-stopper who was already on the roster. Mike Purcell enters 2022 with a clean bill of health after dealing with several injuries that impacted how he anchors the defensive interior.
What might a fully healthy Purcell provide to a newly renovated Broncos defense? Last season the Broncos ranked 15th against the run defensively.
In 2019, the Broncos defense was ranked 16th against the run and 25th in 2020. What was the biggest difference? When Purcell secured a starting role early in the 2019 season, the Broncos’ run defense improved significantly.
The veteran defensive lineman utilized good technique, and the ability to anchor and plug run gaps that helped the defense thrive. After Purcell suffered a lisfranc injury in 2020, there was a noticeable decline in Denver stopping the run.
Coming into 2021, Purcell had hardware removed from his surgically repaired foot that would allow him to heal progressively. The Broncos eased him back into on-field reps during training camp, building up for his return.
Purcell started the first 7 games of the season before suffering a broken thumb. His injury required surgery which held him out of action for three weeks. He returned against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 10, playing with his surgically repaired thumb in a cast.
Despite his return from the injury, playing with a cast after surgery impacted Purcell’s ability to establish a consistent grip while anchoring down inside the A gap. Now fully healthy, he should return to form this season.
Can Mike Purcell help the Broncos run defense return back to form?
Entering his seventh season in the NFL, Purcell returns to the Broncos as a key player on their defensive interior.
The Broncos hope to improve into a top-10 unit against the run this upcoming season, but health will be an important factor.
Joining Purcell as a key player on defense is D.J. Jones. Jones signed with the Broncos during NFL Free Agency to help boost the defense.
Purcell praised the various traits that Jones brings to the table defensively.
“He’s an explosive player,” said Purcell. “I’ve had the benefit of watching him since he’s come in the league. Obviously, I was in San Francisco before he got there. I’ve had the benefit of watching him grow and he’s become one of those fierce run defenders in this league. The way his leverage—obviously he’s not the tallest, but his leverage, his strength and his explosiveness all benefits him in that run game and pass game as well.”
Both players possess the ability to disrupt a passing offense on the interior and plug against the run. If both players can stay healthy, the Broncos run defense could become a top-five unit.
With Ejiro Evero taking over as the new Broncos defensive play-caller, Purcell described how he’s already familiar with Evero from his time in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
“It’s a very similar defense to me. A lot of the terminology and the way we play certain blocks, it’s very similar to me and it’s an easy transition,” Purcell said. “The terminology may be different, but there are a lot of similarities.”
If Mike Purcell can remain healthy this season, the Broncos defense will benefit from his on-field presence.