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Here’s how the Broncos’ defensive depth chart projects to look after the draft

Zac Stevens Avatar
May 12, 2020

DENVER — No team in the NFL is spending more on the defensive side of the ball in 2020 than the Denver Broncos.

Not only does Denver’s $122 million allocated to the defense lead the league, but it’s also 33 percent more than the league average of $92 million.

That means Vic Fangio’s unit better be darn good.

Here’s how the Broncos’ defensive depth chart stacks up after free agency and the draft.

DEFENSIVE ENDS

First-string: Jurrell Casey, Shelby Harris

Second-string: Dre’Mont Jones, Christian Covington

Third-string: McTelvin Agim, DeMarcus Walker

Additional players (in order): Jonathan Harris

John Elway replaced a fan favorite and long-time Bronco, Derek Wolfe, with a five-time Pro Bowler in Jurrell Casey. Casey not only knows how to get after the quarterback and provide interior pass rush, but he can stuff the run as well.

Additionally, Elway pulled off highway robbery keeping Shelby Harris for just over $3 million in 2020. Not only are Denver’s starters dangerous, but Dre’Mont Jones and Christian Covington are also impressive depth pieces who could be starters on many teams across the league. Because of this, rookie third-round pick McTelvin Agim will get a year to develop without being rushed.

NOSE TACKLE

First-string: Mike Purcell

Second-string: Kyle Peko

Third-string: Joel Heath

Mike Purcell was one of Fangio’s hidden treasures last year as he came out of nowhere to provide solid play in the middle of Denver’s defensive line. He’ll be called on again this year to start, but for the entire season.

The depth isn’t as solid as it is at defensive end. However, Fangio will utilize many defensive ends at nose tackle in sub packages, which Denver is in more often than base. That will help alleviate any concerns with the depth at nose tackle.

INSIDE LINEBACKER

First-string: Alexander Johnson, Todd Davis

Second-string: Josey Jewell, Justin Strnad

Third-string: Joe Jones, Justin Hollins

Additional players (in order): Josh Watson, Tre’ Crawford

Thanks to Alexander Johnson’s emergence last year, the Broncos didn’t make any major moves at the inside backer position this offseason. Much like the second half of last year, Fangio will rely on Johnson and veteran Todd Davis to man the middle of his defense.

Rookie Justin Strnad has an opportunity to see significant playing time in sub packages as he proved in college he could be a coverage linebacker. With Denver so desperate for coverage linebackers for years, if Strnad can prove he can do that at the NFL level, he’ll have a major role as a rookie.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER

First-string: Von Miller, Bradley Chubb

Second-string: Jeremiah Attaochu, Justin Hollins

Third-string: Malik Reed, Derrek Tuszka

Additional players (in order): Malik Carney

Not only do the Broncos have excellent talent in their starting outside linebackers, they have tremendous depth nearly all the way down the depth chart.

However, while Von Miller and Bradley Chubb have all the talent in the world, they both disappointed greatly last year. Before Chubb had season-ending ACL surgery, he only racked up one sack in four starts. On the opposite side, the Super Bowl 50 MVP only had eight sacks. To be a success in 2020, they’ll need to at least double their combined sacks from 2019, if not triple it.

SAFETIES

First-string: Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson

Second-string: Trey Marshall, P.J. Locke

Third-string: Douglas Coleman III, Kahani Smith

No team is spending more on their starting safeties than the Broncos. Denver’s $25 million combined investment in Kareem Jackson and Justin Simmons in 2020 means they expect to have the best starting safety duo in the league.

In their first year together in 2019, the two didn’t disappoint as the newcomer Jackson was a punishing force all over the field and Simmons played well enough to earn the team’s franchise tag.

Neither of them will be leaving the field much as the depth behind them is relatively unproven.

CORNERBACKS

First-string: A.J. Bouye, Bryce Callahan

Second-string: Michael Ojemudia, De’Vante Bausby

Third-string: Isaac Yiadom, Duke Dawson

Additional players (in order): Davontae Harris, Alijah Holder, Shakial Taylor, Essang Bassey

On paper, the Broncos are supposed to have two new starting cornerbacks in 2020. In fact, if third-round pick Michael Ojemudia pans out, Denver has a chance to have three completely new cornerbacks on the field in nickel packages in 2020 compared to just one year ago.

For the first time in nearly a decade, Chris Harris Jr. will no longer be in orange and blue. Instead, he’s been replaced with A.J. Bouye, who will man the outside exclusively. The Broncos are hopeful Bryce Callahan will be healthy after spending his entire first year on the team on the bench dealing with a foot injury.

Outside of the two starters, if healthy, the rest of Denver’s corners have a chance to be anywhere from No. 3 on the depth chart to No. 10. No position is more wide open than Denver’s cornerback depth.

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