Despite impressive stats, Broncos defense needs a restart – The Denver Post

Last week, it was all about Broncos general manager quarterback George Paton, who agreed to send a package of three players and five draft picks to Seattle for Russell Wilson in one of the biggest trades ever. NFL history.

This week, so far, is all about defense.

Late Monday, the Broncos agreed to terms with defensive lineman DJ Jones on a three-year contract and on Tuesday they kept linebacker Josey Jewell on a two-year deal and agreed to a $70 million pact. dollars over five years with outside linebacker Randy. Gregory.

Gregory appeared to be staying with Dallas (his social media channels broke the news), but a sudden pivot led him to the Broncos.

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That Gregory is at the top of the Broncos’ wish list for rushers is, at least outwardly, disconcerting. He doesn’t have stunning production (16 1/2 sacks in 50 games). He’s not young (he’ll turn 30 in November) like some free agents available after completing their rookie contract. And he has a long off-court record.

Gregory’s issues with marijuana in general and failed drug tests in particular began at the 2015 combine. 14 game suspensions (two separate penalties) in 2016. … Banned all season 17 for having failed a mandatory test. …and suspended for the entire ’19 season and the start of ’20.

Gregory has played just 50 of a possible 97 regular season games, but has stayed out of trouble since being activated from the commissioner’s exemption list on October 20, 2020. He has missed games last year due to COVID-19 and a calf injury and also had left knee surgery in January.

The Broncos have obviously been investigating the changes Gregory has made to his life since returning from his last suspension, how he’ll fit into their locker room and how he could be the rare player – as he’s only played 1,475 snaps defensive (compare that to 5,336 for safety Justin Simmons) – which can go up at age 30.

But it’s a big risk, especially because outside linebacker Bradley Chubb is coming off a bagless season marred by two ankle surgeries. Since 2016, the Broncos’ 237 sacks are 11th in the league and they viewed Chubb in 2018 as an immediate compliment/future successor to Von Miller. Instead, they only played five games together from 2019-21 due to injuries to both players and ultimately Miller being traded to the Los Angeles Rams.

If Chubb/Gregory can play like Chubb/Miller did in 2018 (26 1/2 sacks combined), then the Broncos are back in the passing rush business. A positive trait of Gregory’s game is his eight forced fumbles over the past three years.

Paton’s approach in adding to the defense confirmed our thinking on last year’s unit: Very good statistically, but below par in the eyesight test. They finished eighth in fewest yards allowed, second in fewest runs allowed and third in the red zone. But they were tied for 21st in takeout (19) and a terrible 28th on third down (44.9%).

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But are they better now? Heading into the league’s start to the year at 2 p.m. Wednesday, a look at the Broncos’ defense:

Defensive line: Dre’Mont Jones (end), Mike Purcell (nose plate) and DJ Jones (end). DJ Jones, who agreed to terms Monday night to leave San Francisco, was a two-man for the 49ers in the playoffs, so the Broncos have yet to find a subset passer to play alongside Dre’Mont Jones. , who had a breakout in the latter half of 2021 and must now put on 17 consistent performance matches. If he does, this group is better.

Inside Linebacker: Josey Jewell agreed to a two-year deal on Tuesday and will be counted on to play at least the basics. He tore his pectoral in Game 2 last year, but Paton said earlier this month that Jewell was healthy. We’ll list Baron Browning as the other starting inside linebacker, with the question being whether he or Jewell will be the lowest player.