During a time of year in which giving thanks and appreciation is more than appropriate, we turn to Dove Valley, where the Broncos have found no shortage of blessings to count over the past four weeks.
While a number of people have played a role in pushing Denver’s record to 6-5 with an undefeated November, there is one man who might be due more gratitude than anyone associated with the Orange & Blue:
Von Miller. Not necessarily on board? Please consider the following list:
In today’s NFL, franchises are made or broken by their ability to draft effectively. The former Broncos quarterback started his personnel management career with the highest pick in Denver history staring him in the face. Obviously, there is still a mountain of work to be done to return the organization to perennial contention. But with a number of different options (none a particularly clear-cut leader), Denver took Miller over the likes of Marcell Dareus (solid thus far, but not spectacular) and Patrick Peterson (punt returns are nice, but constant QB pressure is better). His credentials already in question due to lack of experience, Elway couldn’t miss with the number two overall pick. It appears he has not.
John Fox & Dennis Allen
Fox was hired largely due to his prowess as a “defensive-minded” coach. Allen is the team’s sixth different defensive coordinator in as many seasons. The Broncos ranked at or near the bottom of every defensive category – including dead last in sacks with 23. Thus far in 2011, they are tied for seventh in the NFL in sacks with 30. More importantly, the defense is applying consistent pressure without the use of exotic blitz schemes that create vulnerability in other areas. The pass rush generated largely by Miller and Elvis Dumervil (more on him next) has been huge in the 15 points-per-game effort the defense has posted in the five Bronco wins with Tim Tebow behind center.
After missing all of 2010, the return of Dumervil to the Denver front seven is a key component to the Broncos success. However, the reality is that in Dumervil’s 17-sack 2009, only three were produced over season’s final five games. Faced with no other viable pass rushing threat, Denver opponents could double-team Dumervil with no recourse. The addition of Miller has allowed Dumervil to take advantage of one-on-one situations once again and the sixth-year defensive end has 5 ½ sacks to show for it.
Champ Bailey & Andre Goodman
Bailey was very vocal on Sports Radio 104.3 “The Fan” (my employer, in the interest of full-disclosure) yesterday about how much easier his job is when the front seven is able to apply pressure to the quarterback. Of course, the 13-year veteran normally proves effective regardless, so more telling is the play of Goodman, the corner opposite Champ. The 33-year old, considered by many to have lost a step, has been outstanding over the last month with four of his six passes defensed and an interception return for a touchdown coming in that stretch.
I save the most obvious for last. Tebow’s late game heroics cannot be denied. However, as has been well-documented, his play during the first 3+ quarters of most of his starts has been less than spectacular. Regardless, Tebow supporters have one empirical statistic to use in answering the skeptics and doubters: his 5-1 record as a starting quarterback. While no. 15 seems to have inspired the entire squad (which sounds somewhat ridiculous—we are talking about professional athletes, after all), it is the noticeably improved defense (fueled largely by the play of Miller) that has been most instrumental in Denver’s current push.