Heading into the 2019 season, all the buzz around the Broncos focused on the potentially unstoppable duo of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb under the tutelage of Vic Fangio.
That didn’t go to plan as Miller showed his first real signs of regression and Bradley Chubb tore his ACL in the first quarter of the season, but there’s still plenty to be optimistic about thanks to the incredible depth the Broncos have recultivated.
Von Miller started to show signs of decline in 2019 but he was still a key playmaker for the Broncos on the defensive side of the ball.
In his first year in Vic Fangio‘s scheme, Miller recorded just eight sacks. This season was just the second time in Miller’s career he wasn’t able to record double-digit sacks and the first time with him appearing in at least 10 games.
Although the sacks weren’t there, the pressures and pass-rushing productivity still was. According to Pro Football Focus, Miller was still the league’s third-most productive pass-rusher on a per snap basis (Min. 175 snaps).
After bursting on to the NFL scene with one of the best pass-rushing seasons the league has ever seen from a rookie, injury spoiled Bradley Chubb‘s encore.
While he was on the field though, was the Broncos’ most productive pass rusher when the team could barely record a sack, and he showed off some incredible toughness by coming back on to field against the Jaguars with a torn ACL.
The Broncos were guaranteed to lose Shaquil Barrett in free agency but that loss hurt even worse when he went on to lead the NFL in sacks. The only thing that made that loss any easier was the collection of young, talented pass rushers the Broncos brought in, Malik Reed chief among them.
Denver’s newest undrafted pass rusher recorded three sacks and 20 pressures on limited snaps and even earned the incredible nickname ‘dream-killer’ in his rookie season.
Much like Reed, Justin Hollins was a rookie pass rusher that played above his draft status and helped alleviate the absence of Bradley Chubb.
The sixth-round pick was Denver’s least productive edge rusher per PFF, tallying just one sack and 10 hurries on the season.
That being said, Hollins’ productivity as a rookie pass rusher isn’t as important as it was for Reed considering how raw he was coming out of Oregon, and his ability to play inside linebacker.
The most promising and exciting of the Broncos’ unproven, young pass rushers might just be Jeremiah Attaochu.
Attaochu was a second-round pick of the Chargers back in 2014, but never really produced for them, recording just 10 sacks through his four seasons with the team.
After a brief stint with the Jets, Attaochu found himself on the Broncos where he had one of the most productive and efficient seasons of his career, totaling four sacks in just five starts. If he finally realizes his second-round potential, Denver’s defense will become that much scarier.
What to expect in 2020
This is one of the Broncos’ position groups that should remain largely untouched.
Yes, Miller showed signs of decline last season, but he’s still an elite defensive player and trading him wouldn’t be worth it for the haul the Broncos would get in return.
Attachou is the only member of the group with a contract expiring, and while the Broncos could let him walk thanks to their depth at the position, they should try to retain him given his upside and cheap market value.