The Two Areas of Concern for the Denver Broncos' Defense

By Joe Morrone
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos have addressed most of the positions that they needed to during the offseason, but there are still questions about two spots. Those spots are safety and middle linebacker so let’s take an in-depth look at both of those positions.

It’s completely understandable why people (fans) are worried about the safety position for the Broncos. Their last image is of Rahim Moore misplaying a pass that led to the tying touchdown versus the Baltimore Ravens. That play sent the game into overtime where the Ravens eventually won and went on to win the Super Bowl.

The problem with that as the last image is it covers up one fact; Moore had a good season in 2012. The improvement from his rookie season to his second was substantial, and Moore continues to put in the work to get better. He was working out on his own less than 48 hours after the playoff loss, and he has returned to the Broncos’ offseason workouts determined to be the safety the Broncos need. The bottom line is this; Moore made a mistake at the worst possible time but teams don’t cut talent.

The other factor at safety is the return of Quinton Carter who missed all of 2012 with an injury. Carter was easily the Broncos’ best safety at the end of 2011 and is on pace to return to that level. No one ever knows how a player is going to come back from an injury, but the signs are good. The Broncos drafted Moore and Carter to be the safeties of the future, and they are going to get every opportunity to fulfill that promise. Veteran Mike Adams also returns for another season to provide leadership and depth.

The one position that a lot of people seem to be in panic mode about is the middle linebacker spot. I have to tell you, worrying about who is going to play middle linebacker for the Broncos is not a complete waste of time, but it’s close.

The NFL is not the same league that was dominated by players like Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary or even Ray Lewis. The offenses are set up in a way that the middle linebacker in a 4-3 defense is only on the field 30-40% of the game. That number drops even more if the Broncos are playing with a lead, which they should be doing a lot of in 2013. Take the San Diego Chargers, for example, who drafted Manti Te’o to play inside linebacker but he can’t play on passing downs. Do you think they are going to let Te’o cover Wes Welker on third down and five? No, they are going to replace him with a defensive back.

The Broncos are going to head into camp with an open competition for the job between Nate Irving and Steven Johnson. The money here is on Irving who was drafted two years ago to eventually be the guy in this spot. Irving struggled in his rookie season but played great on special teams in 2012 and played well in spot duty on defense as well.

We live in an “I want it now” society where people are too quick to write off draft picks if they don’t contribute immediately. Some players just take longer to develop but go on to long, productive careers. Irving may or may not be one of those players, but he’s going to get his chance. Johnson was an undrafted free agent that the Broncos like a lot, and if he won the job, no one would be shocked.

The concerns about safety and middle linebacker are not totally without merit, but the Broncos believe the solutions are already in house. It would be nice to sign a player at every position of need, but it’s just not possible. Eventually teams have to trust the people they’ve brought in to step up, and that’s what the Broncos are doing.

Follow me on Twitter @Jemorrone7

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