Wade Phillips' defense just what the doctor ordered in Denver

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August 24, 2015


Rush. The. Quarterback.

A simple concept with a million different ways of getting it done.

Some coaches like to send blitzes occasionally, knowing the more often it’s done, the bigger the risks become. Blitz too often or don’t get home and the quarterback will find an open receiver, likely for a big gain.

But what Wade Phillips is doing in Denver is the perfect mix of putting pressure on the passer while not blitzing literally every play.

Of course, he doesn’t have to, with two of the best pass-rushers in the game in Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. And if the 33-year old Ware gets tired, or if Miller needs a breath of fresh air, there’s Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett ready to explode off the line and put fear into passers’ hearts.

In fact, according to Pro Football Focus, the Broncos are the top pass-rushing team in the NFL through two preseason games, with a grade of 20.2. The second-best is the Washington Redskins with a 17.3 grade. Denver’s also the No. 2 defense overall so far, with a grade of 47.7 behind the 49.9 of the San Francisco 49ers.

Through two weeks of preseason football, the Denver defense has racked up 12 sacks, 23 quarterback hits, 12 tackles for a loss and four forced quarterback fumbles. A team puts that kind of pressure on the quarterback and good things will happen for the defense. Sacks mean lost yards, lost field position and lost plays. They lead to frustration, foolish plays and turnovers.

It’s not just that edge-rushers are generating pressure, but it’s coming from all over the place. And, as Barrett told us in an exclusive interview, players seem to be more comfortable under Phillips to try new moves. Like Sylvester Williams‘ spin move for a sack on Saturday. And fellow nose tackle, rookie Darius Kilgo, bull-rushed a blocker for a sack of his own.

Face it, if you’re a long-time Broncos backer, you likely thought, “Wade Phillips? Isn’t he like, 60 years old?” 68 to be exact, and clearly, the game has not passed him by, even if he was the Broncos head coach over two decades ago. Wade, the son of Bum Phillips, is carrying on the family legacy of coaching an intimidating defensive unit through hard hitting and relentless pass-rushing. Simply, the Phillips family is defensive NFL royalty.

Of course, Wade is allowed to rush with five or six men whenever he wants due to the fact his Broncos possess one of the top secondaries in the entire league. Aqib Talib and Chris Harris are both content playing on an island, while Bradley Roby can come in to shut down the slot receiver, too. T.J. Ward is an enforcer while Darian Stewart has shown his pass coverage ability as well.

Inside, the combination of Danny Trevathan – an all-around linebacker – and workhorse Brandon Marshall will give the team the two leading tacklers from 2013 and 2014 on the field at the same time.

All told, this is the most talented group of defenders since Peyton Manning joined the offense in 2012. They give the Broncos their best chance of winning a Super Bowl compared to any of the last three teams, but it’s not just due to talent.

Phillips is unafraid to use all that talent, he’s unafraid to gamble an his players love him for believing in them. This attacking style of defense will benefit the entire Broncos team, as they’ll force turnovers and even score points. It’ll take some of the pressure off the offense, which has been carrying the team for years, and set them up with a short field many times.

In Denver, defense has made a comeback. Under Wade Phillips, they’re ready to attack the quarterback.


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