Forget the Super Bowl, Broncos working to fix their many holes

You read it here first: The Denver Broncos will not win the next Super Bowl (assuming, of course, there is a next Super Bowl).

Not if Tim Tebow is indeed the reincarnation of John Elway, not if the team actually finds a couple of people who can slow opposing rushers, not if the team’s trainers and physicians are virtually uncalled upon through the season, not if everything goes just right.

Going into last week’s draft, there were simply too many holes to fill.

Chat lines, blogs, news conferences and other assorted methods of social networking since the draft came to a conclusion have been clogged with fans whining about Denver’s failure to draft a defensive lineman. It is a valid concern.

But those doing the moaning seem to forget one fact: To rebuild from scratch means you have to start somewhere. In Denver’s case, that meant drafting linebacker Von Miller.

The Bronco defense was going to be improved simply because of the addition of a healthy Elvis Dumervil. Now think about rushing the passer with Dumervil on one side and Miller coming from the other. They will both be relentlessly approaching opposing quarterbacks very rapidly.

Yes, the Broncos are going to have more of a pass rush.

They might also have an immediate upgrade in run blocking from Orlando Franklin, who was drafted in the second round to step in at right tackle.

And they could get immediate help at middle linebacker from Nate Irving, a third-round draftee from North Carolina State who, before a nasty car wreck in 2009, was a potential first-round pick.

Other than that, it’s developmental time for a couple of drafted safeties, tight ends and other assorted special teamers-to-be.

Meaning …

… More help is needed, especially on that defensive interior. After all, if teams don’t have to pass against Denver, what good is a pass rush?

There are now two ways for the Broncos to address the interior of the defensive line: free agency and/or trades.

Denver has one possibility of a veteran-for-veteran trade that makes sense — if they decide Tebow is the quarterback (or Brady Quinn?) and dangle Kyle Orton for a defensive lineman. Although it likely won’t bring about an All-Pro, it should at least provide a starter. And trade partners would be limited only by their perceived need for a veteran quarterback.

Free agency is much simpler than a trade in that it’s simply a process of selling a program and coming to a financial understanding.

New coach John Fox has talked since the draft about filling these needs, admitting that the signing of free agents will be a necessity to upgrade the D-line, all the while saying that the new additions in the form of Dumervil and Miller, combined with the re-signing of free agent Champ Bailey, make the defensive line less a priority than it was just a few short weeks ago.

Still, it is obvious that if the Broncos are to improve enough to think about Fox’s first stated goal — to win the AFC West title — they will have to be able to slow opposing rushing attacks.

Right now, Denver sits with Kevin Vickerson as one defensive tackle, with Ryan McBean and Marcus Thomas, both rotation players last season but also both longtime reserves and possible starters. Justin Bannan, who was cut after the season ended in what was perceived as a cost-cutting move, is also a possibility to be re-signed if he doesn’t command relatively big bucks elsewhere.

The top defensive tackle free agent, Haloti Ngata of the Ravens, will likely re-sign with Baltimore unless someone decides to break the bank — something Denver, with Miller demanding big bucks as the No. 2 overall selection, will likely not be in the mood to do.

Barry Cofield of the Giants and Brandon Mebane of the Sea-hawks are two starters in their 20s who are available, with Cullen Jenkins of the Packers and Aubrayo Franklin of the 49ers both in their 30s and more risky. Another possibility is Mike Patterson of the Eagles, who reportedly provides little pass rush but is a super run-stuffer, which fits Denver’s needs.

Yes, there are candidates out there and, yes, the Broncos are ready to start the bidding. If and when that happens, it will lead to a new and improved defense.

It’s baby steps for the Broncos — lots of them taken so far, many more needed to get to the promised land.


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