Behind Enemy Lines: beating Denver's defense

In Part II of our Behind Enemy Lines series with the publisher of Mile High Huddle, we dive into the Broncos' defense that's been playing awfully well in 2014.

We spoke to Mile High Huddle publisher Chad Jensen about the Broncos' defense in Part II of our behind enemy lines series. The first installment, covering the Denver's offense can be found here.

The Broncos enter Sunday's game in the top 10 in the NFL in points, rushing defense, total defense and sacks. In the offseason, general manager John Elway took to the free-agent pool to address some needs, adding pass rusher DeMarcus Ware, safety T.J. Ward and corner Aqib Talib.

With Peyton Manning at 38, it's clear the Broncos' are in win-now mode and they believe their defense will give them a shot at winning Manning's second championship.

Niners Digest: Chad, the Broncos are in the top 10 in just about every statistical category. To you, do the statistics match up with the eye test? Is the defense good enough to hold its own if the offense has a off day?

Jensen: Absolutely, to both questions. The Broncos sit at 4-1, but if this were last year's defense, they'd be 2-3. The Broncos first two wins came down to the final posession. Protecting a 7-point lead in both games, the Broncos defense found a way to make the stop, with time running out to seal the win.

The 2013 defense would have broken. I'm very impressed overall by the changes in personnel and energy/mindset by the defense. Guys like T.J. Ward and Aqib Talib have fit in nicely and have brought a swagger and physical edge to the defense that was lacking last year. Rookie corner, Bradley Roby, has arguably been the best rookie defensive back in the NFL thus far.

If Manning and company have an off-day, the defense can hold down the fort and keep them in the game. We saw that against the Seahawks in Week 3. Manning was out of sync until the last half of the fourth quarter and were it not for the defense, going blow-for-blow with the Legion of Boom, that would have been a two-score victory for Seattle, let alone having gone to overtime.

ND: Outside linebacker Von Miller appears to be in All-Pro form against both the run and the pass, but nationally you don’t hear too much about him because of what J.J. Watt is doing in Houston. Miller has to be considered a defensive player of the year candidate, right?

Jensen: I would think so. And if the Texans aren't able to turn it around and compete for a postseason berth, then Miller could end up winning DPoY. He has been an absolute beast. With 6 sacks and 22 combined QB hurries and hits, he has established himself as the highest rated linebacker in the NFL and 2nd highest rated defender (Watt) via Pro Football Focus.

Last year, he was dominant, but his statistics fell off a tad. Between the trauma of his suspension and adding 16 pounds of weight, he wasn't quite the same in 2013. He's back to his 2012 playing weight now, however, and completely healed from his ACL and the results on the field tell the story.

ND: Danny Trevathan only appeared in two games this year before injuring his knee cap on his second play from scrimmage last week against the Jets. How big of a loss is he to the defense and what’s the situation like with his backups?

Losing Trevathan is a big loss, but it's one the Broncos can handle. He and Lavonte David are arguably the two best "Will" LBs in the league, but what the team will miss the most is his leadership. He is the unquestioned leader in the defensive huddle and keeps guys around him focused and accountable.

He missed the first three games this season but Brandon Marshall filled in admirably for him, leading the team in tackles. He's not quite as talented as Trevathan, but they do share a lot of traits. Between he and rookie, Corey Nelson, the Broncos should be able to whether the storm sans Trevathan.

ND: Demarcus Ware looks like he’s having a resurgence this season with the Broncos after being hurt for most of last year in Dallas. How good has he been and is he factoring in as much as his five sacks would suggest?

He has averaged almost a sack per game thus far. He's been everything the Broncos hoped he'd be when they signed him. One of the biggest assets he brings to the team is his example and willingness to teach the younger guys on the roster technique and offensive lineman's tells, et cetera.

The coaches have kept him on a bit of a snap count. But when the chips are down, Ware comes alive. The Broncos have only been able to blow out one team thus far (Arizona) but their schedule gets markedly easier after Week 8. Getting out to early leads allows Ware and Miller to pin their ears back and get after the QB. I doubt that happens on Sunday night, but Ware will be a factor. Expect Ware to get close to 16 sacks this season.


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