The Denver Broncos Beefed Up Their Defensive Line In More Ways Than One

The Broncos defense aught to be able to stop the run more effectively in 2017.

After finishing 28th against the run in 2016, the Denver Broncos made it a priority to get bigger and meaner on the defensive line. Their first and most obvious solution was to add veteran free agents Domata Peko and Zach Kerr in March. 

Peko checks in at 325 pounds, while Kerr tips the scales at 334. That's a big upgrade in beef over the 313-pound Sylvester Williams, who held down the nose tackle position in Denver for the last two years, before signing in Tennessee this offseason. 

GM John Elway didn't stop there. The Broncos signed the highly sought-after college free agent Tyrique Jarrett out of the University of Pittsburgh following the Draft. Jarrett is listed by the team at 335 pounds, but his own teammates have reckoned that he's closer to 350 pounds. Between those three additions alone, the Broncos added a half ton to their D-line in 2017.

In theory, the bigger-bodied linemen will allow the inside linebackers — like Brandon Marshall and Todd Davis — more freedom to swarm to the ball-carrier, without having to shuck and duck offensive guards. These are much-needed improvements to the nose tackle corps, but the Broncos haven't stopped there. 

The defensive ends, led by Derek Wolfe, have also worked to add some weight over the offseason. Wolfe has added 20 pounds to his frame, while the second-year Adam Gotsis has also put on some weight to get closer to 300 pounds. Gotsis accepted the challenge his position coach, Bill Kollar, levied at him when the 2016 season ended. 

"Physically, I've told him all along: You've got to get bigger and stronger -- or else," Kollar said. "These guys are too big and strong and tough in this league.

"I told him, 'If I were you, I'd take one week off after the season, I'd get my [rear end] into the weight room and I'd lift until there was no tomorrow. Because otherwise you don't have a chance. You've got to be able to get in there and fight."

Gotsis looks like a new man. He's bigger and stronger, and now that he's had the extra time to recover from the ACL injury he suffered in October of 2015, he's quicker, too. I'm really intrigued to see how Gotsis can make an impact in year two. 

Right now, Gotsis isn't the defensive end running with the first-team opposite of Derek Wolfe. That would be Jared Crick, who's also gained a considerable amount of weight. 

“I probably gained about 15 pounds over the offseason," Crick said on Wednesday. "It’s not an advantage for yourself to be under 275 which I was at times last year going against offensive lines in the AFC West. So this offseason, I tried to gain 15 pounds. Hopefully I can gain another five before training camp. Obviously all good weight to where I can still move. I feel a lot stronger going into this summer than any of the summers I’ve been in the NFL.”

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Crick was asked to step in and start in 2016, after Vance Walker was lost for the season. Crick struggled to hold up at the point of attack in the run game, but did help push the pocket from the inside on passing downs. This time around, Crick and the Broncos D-line are committed to reversing the slide they had in defending the run last year. 

“You can’t point your fingers at one position or one guy or anything like that," Crick said. "We wanted to get bigger up front. We were undersized last year and we knew it. We just keep or tenacity up. Obviously, we’re doing some different things defensively this year to help out with that. Being bigger and stronger this year will help out with that."

You heard it from Head Coach Vance Joseph, in a mic'd up conversation with defensive coordinator Joe Woods, when the Broncos hit the field for their first practice session of 2017 back in April. 

"I'll tell you what," Joseph said. "You've gotten bigger up front, between Kerr and Peko. It looks different. It looks different. You've gotten bigger." 

Now we see that Denver's commitment to beef up the D-line goes way beyond signing Peko and Kerr. I'm looking forward to seeing whether it pays dividends come the fall. There's no guarantee that it will, but were I a bettin' man, I wouldn't wager against it. 

Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.

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