Hard choices on defense for Broncos

The reformation of the Denver Broncos' defense wasn't going to come without some hard choices.

The Broncos got rid of two players who started all last season. Defensive end Kenny Peterson was cut after the Broncos signed three defensive linemen. That wasn't a huge surprise, but the release of linebacker Andra Davis was.

Davis was given a specific role last year, to play on running downs. He came off the field in all nickel and dime situations. He did play the run very well, getting 90 tackles despite not playing a huge chunk of the time. He ranked third on the team in tackles and led the Broncos with 14 tackles for loss.

Yet, the Broncos apparently wanted more sideline-to-sideline speed and someone who could stay on the field on all downs like inside linebacker D.J. Williams. Mario Haggan, who started at outside linebacker last year, has played inside linebacker most of his career, and the Broncos have 2009 first-round pick Robert Ayers waiting in the wings on the outside. Haggan doesn't provide great speed, but he is a big player.

"With (Mario) Haggan, we have the flexibility to move Mario inside at Mike (linebacker), and he's every bit of 265 pounds at Mike linebacker," Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said. "He played on the edge for us last year. We expect Robert Ayers to improve and play a bigger role in our defense this year."

The Broncos could also look at adding an inside linebacker in the draft.

The changes on the line weren't too surprising. The Broncos signed Jamal Williams, Justin Bannan and Jarvis Green to upgrade the defensive front. Peterson had 40 tackles last year but wasn't a difference maker. He was deemed expendable with all the additions.

The Broncos went through a major defensive change well before free agency began when defensive coordinator Mike Nolan left for Miami. Denver's defense improved dramatically last year, but the team felt that it needed some personnel changes to continue to get better.

The Broncos also signed cornerback Nathan Jones to likely be their nickel cornerback, which fills another need. The Broncos could continue to look at defensive linemen, either in free agency or the draft, but likely just for depth.

Linebacker is also an area the Broncos could attack in the draft. Alabama's Rolando McClain is a player that has been tied to the Broncos in many mock drafts, and he is a possibility with the 11th overall pick.



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