The Broncos’ run defense has been one of the most under-the-radar surprises of the 2012 season, finishing second in the league against the run. It certainly helps having a lead, which forces opponents to throw, but Denver’s front seven rarely allowed big gains.
A big part of the success came from a trio of veterans — DTs Kevin Vickerson and Justin Bannan and MLB Keith Brooking, who took over for Joe Mays in Week Six. The trio combined to play in every game with 43 starts, and Denver allowed only 3.23 yards per carry up the middle, good for fourth in the league.
The challenge for John Elway and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio this offseason will be how to keep up that success. Not only are all three players free agents but age is a factor — Brooking is 37, Bannan turns 34 in April and Vickerson is 30. Denver made it clear Mays is not the answer at middle linebacker, and we hear they are not sure Nate Irving can be a starter and believe that D.J. Williams is better on the outside. At defensive tackle, the Broncos could get Ty Warren back next year, if he can stay healthy.
The Broncos have few holes, especially on offense, which makes the middle of the defense a priority this offseason considering the uncertainty about the three current starters.