2013 Preview: Ranking the Five Best Defenses in the NFL

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3. Denver Broncos

The Bronco defense gets a lot of heat for their performance in the 2013 NFL Playoffs, but they were a solid defensive unit throughout the year.

Denver ranked second in total defense, as they were the only team in the top four in total offense and defense. Von Miller set a franchise record with 18.5 sacks, and the Broncos were tied for the most sacks in the NFL with 52. In addition to the sacks, Denver intercepted 16 passes and forced 20 fumbles, both among the best in the NFL.

Jan 12, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) is sacked by Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller (58), defensive end Elvis Dummervil (92), and defensive end Derek Wolfe (95) during the overtime period of the AFC divisional round playoff game at Sports Authority Field. The Ravens won 38-35 in double overtime. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Those numbers are helpful, but they don’t mean anything if you allow a lot of points. Denver didn’t allow points, as they surrendered an average of 18.1 PPG. The New Orleans Saints, the best offense in the NFL, managed a meager 14 points against the Broncos. In Denver’s last 11 regular season games, they never allowed more than 24 points.

Oh, and during that span, Denver allowed an average of 15.9 PPG.

To help out their secondary, the Broncos signed Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to a one-year, $5 million deal. Rodgers-Cromartie struggled in Philadelphia during his two years there, but he still intercepted three passes and defensed 14.

In Arizona, Rodgers-Cromartie was a Pro Bowl selection, and he thrived as an outside corner. In Denver, Rodgers-Cromartie will be opposite a future Hall of Famer in Champ Bailey. He will likely take on taller receivers, as he is 6’2. Rodgers-Cromartie is fast, big and athletic, and he has all the raw tools needed to succeed. In a winning environment like Denver, I expect him to be motivated to succeed.

Terrance Knighton, a 330-pound run stuffer, was signed to stop the run and plug up holes on the defensive line. He signed for two years and $4.5 million, so it was a low-risk signing. Denver signed Stewart Bradley, who earned a $30 million dollar contract from Arizona due to his 4-3 success in Philadelphia, for just $1.1 million on a one-year deal. The Broncos aren’t bringing in stars, but they are doing their homework and finding good fits for their base 4-3 scheme.

With the draft coming up, the Broncos can definitely fill all holes they need to fill. Denver’s defense is near-perfect, and even Rahim Moore, the goat in Denver’s heartbreaking playoff loss to Baltimore, had a good year with 72 tackles. The Broncos defense is well-rounded with one star (Miller) and some other great players, such as Wesley Woodyard (117 tackles in 2012) and Elvis Dumervil (who might re-sign with Denver).

John Elway and the Denver front office have made brilliant moves, and that’s why the defense is so good. With free agency still going on and the draft looming, the Broncos will only upgrade their defense. They are not higher because there are a couple of small holes, but there’s no reason not to believe in Denver’s defense.

Because even without a small upgrade, Denver clearly has a spectacular defense that will shut down top offenses once again in 2013.