The 3 biggest concerns for the Broncos defense in 2021

Denver Broncos Von Miller (58) celebrates after a defensive stop in the second half against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium. The Titans won 13-10.
Dec 11, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Denver Broncos Von Miller (58) celebrates after a defensive stop in the second half against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium. The Titans won 13-10. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

While the Broncos have done a terrific job of constructing a roster that looks to have a dominant defense in 2021, there are always uncontrollable circumstances that all NFL teams will be faced with at some point in the season.

Whether you like it or not, having luck on your side is ultimately a huge part of finding success.

General manager George Paton has used this offseason to greatly improve the Broncos’ defense after a disastrous 2020 season. Bringing in new faces like first-round pick Patrick Surtain II while also retaining players like All-Pro safety Justin Simmons, Paton has done wonders in improving the talent level of the Broncos defense, top to bottom.

The defense certainly looks fantastic on paper but the Broncos will have multiple in-season hurdles they will need to clear before they are crowned one of the NFL’s top defenses.

The AFC West

No matter what the Broncos do, they will always be competing against the same three opponents for a total of six times every year. Playing these teams as often as they do, the level of competition these three teams offer can and will affect the outcome of your team.

While being in a division with three good offensive teams, in the Chargers, Raiders and Chiefs, is more reason to build a solid defense, it also makes the job of the defense that much more difficult.

For example, the Chiefs look as impossible to stop as any team in football. With maybe the most valuable player in the league in Patrick Mahomes, the Broncos’ defense has its hands full, to say the least.

And it does not stop there, the Chargers have Justin Hebert, who put up historical numbers for a rookie quarterback, and the Raiders have Derek Carr, who is extremely underrated in his own right.

Because the AFC West is so rich in good quarterback play, it is more than plausible that the biggest threat to the Broncos’ defense will be the in-division rivalries they will be challenged with on a consistent basis.

Health

Last season the Broncos’ defense was completely decimated with injuries.

With key players like former All-Pro and Broncos legend Von Miller missing the entire season, the defense never lived up to its true potential.

While Paton has done a terrific job of retooling the Broncos’ defense, injuries are completely out of the team’s control and can be impossible to overcome depending on the severity of the injuries sustained.

Head coach Vic Fangio is a great defensive mind but even he can’t win if there is a substantial disparity in talent on the field.

Football is an extremely violent sport and while a player staying healthy through an entire season requires a good amount of luck, some players are at a higher risk than others.

or the Broncos, this is specifically evident throughout their secondary where cornerbacks Bryce Callahan and Ronald Darby have both had a tough time staying healthy through their careers. Callahan has yet to play an entire season while Darby just did for the first time last season.

Starting this season, the NFL will be implementing a 17 game schedule. With an additional regular-season game added, the likelihood of injury will increase as player’s bodies start to break down towards the end of what is a very physically tolling season.

Linebacker

The Broncos starting linebacker duo of A.J Johnson and Josey Jewell is not necessarily a weakness but on paper, but it is the least talented of any position group on the Broncos defense, and the only position group one wouldn’t label a strength.

Both Johnson and Jewell are league-average to below-league-average players, but in a very linebacker friendly scheme, the Broncos are able to get away with it more successfully than your average NFL team would.

Not asked to do too much in coverage, the lack of athleticism between these two is mitigated.

Behind them are Justin Strnad and Baron Browning. Completely different than Johnson and Jewell, these players offer more athleticism and coverage upside but are both unproven at the NFL level. While the talent is there, Strnad missed his entire rookie season with an injury and Browning is widely considered somewhat of a project, making any serious contribution unlikely so early in his career.

With four starting-caliber cornerbacks on the roster this year, the Broncos could play more dime personnel to even further mitigate the responsibilities of the linebackers.

This has become somewhat of a popular idea in Broncos Country and even has been hinted at by multiple reporters covering the team, using first-round pick Patrick Surtain II more like a swiss army knife this season.

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