Denver, CO. For anyone who has lived in the Denver area for quite some time, the term “Orange Crush” should bring back some nice memories from old Mile High Stadium. Throughout the years, whenever the Denver Broncos defense has excelled and dominated the opposing offense, many fans here harken back to the 1970′s. That is when this franchise made their first ever trip to the Super Bowl, due in part mostly to an opportunistic defense that could also get to the quarterback. The 70′s was a time when nicknames in the NFL really took off. We had the “Steel Curtain” in Pittsburgh, Minnesota’s “Purple People Eaters”, and “The Doomsday Defense” in Dallas. Denver’s “Orange Crush” was born almost forty years ago, and this term has made some appearances from time to time ever since. The Broncos had some pretty good defenses in the 80′s, and a couple of outstanding ones during those back to back Super Bowl teams in the late 90′s. But ever since then, the defense over the past decade or so has been average at best. Let’s be honest, some years, it has been absolutely atrocious and one of the leagues worst. With training camp a mere 9 days away, and looking at the roster on the defensive side of the ball, we could be in store for a rebirth of defensive dominance in 2012. One of the key cogs in this potential machine could very well be rookie second round pick, 22 year old Derek Wolfe.
There were times last year when Sports Authority Field at Mile High felt like old Mile High Stadium. For example, in a mid November Thursday Night game vs the Jets, Tebow-Mania catapulted the Broncos to an upset win over New York. But during that game, there were a few times when the defense stepped up and made a big play, which ended up ultimately sealing the victory for Denver. It was so reminiscent of the 1980′s, when John Elway would give us a late 4th quarter lead, and someone on our defense would come up huge to secure the win. With Peyton Manning now in the fold here, Denver should be able to score plenty of points this season. I feel the defense will be the key to whether or not the Broncos are serious AFC contenders or not, however. Some critical pieces are already here, and in place. Elvis Dumervil is one of the best end rushers in the NFL. Von Miller had an outstanding rookie season, and looks to be a perennial Pro Bowler for years to come. Champ Bailey is still doing his thing, locking down the opposing teams best receivers. Newcomer Tracy Porter will man the other side, and is a very good 2nd cornerback. The linebackers are steady, but someone will have to emerge, especially with D.J. Williams having his recent problems and maybe heading out the door sooner rather than later. The Safety position is a big question mark, as Brian Dawkins is now retired, and veteran Mike Adams was signed to help out. But to me, the key could be the defensive line, and more specifically, the interior guys. For years now, our Defensive Tackles have been below average. To excel in the NFL today defensively, you really do need guys in the middle who can stuff the run, and at times cause chaos in the opposing teams backfield. Hence, this is why I believe the Broncos drafted Derek Wolfe with their first choice back in April. He is a high motor kind of player, in the same mold as a Jared Allen maybe. At the University of Cincinnati, he was a highly productive lineman, who could also occasionally get to the QB. Last year as a Senior, he notched 9.5 sacks, which is a good number at his position. Here in Denver, he will be called upon to be part of a defensive line rotation that also includes Justin Bannan, Kevin Vickerson, and Ty Warren. The job at hand for these guys will be to effectively stuff the run, and also clog up the middle so the Broncos playmakers, Dumervil and Miller, can be free to make some huge plays. If everything goes according to plan, this defense could be surprisingly opportunistic, and be the reason this team plays deep into January.
The Denver Broncos are not expecting rookie Derek Wolfe to come in this year and be an immediate Pro Bowler. But, what they are hoping for, is much like what he was in college….A relentless, persistent defensive lineman who can make a few plays here and there. From all indications, he is a quick learner who is driven to get better. At just 22 years old, he is bound to make plenty of mistakes this year, as most players do at that age. But if he can be part of a defensive line crew who stays healthy and does their jobs, the “Orange Crush” could return as early as 2012.
Denver Sports by J Simp