The Broncos spent most of the 2014 season the front-runners to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl for the second time in as many years. However, a late-season swoon and unceremoniously quick playoff exit led to big changes in the Mile High City. And those changes extend to the defense.
The biggest of those changes is a scheme switch under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. That switch, of course, is to Phillips’ preferred 3-4 front, and while Phillips may be a maestro with the scheme the music it plays makes IDP types ears bleed. That’s especially true on the defensive line.
With DeMarcus Ware re-classified by most IDP providers as an outside linebacker, there just isn’t much to see on the defensive front. So just back away slowly and let’s move on to the linebackers before anyone gets hurt.
The changes in scheme also means big changes at linebacker. An injury suffered by Danny Trevathan opened the door for a bigger role for fourth-year pro Brandon Marshall. Marshall took advantage of the opportunity en route to 113 tackles, but he told Cameron Wolfe of The Denver Post he isn’t about to take things for granted now.
“I try not to let myself get comfortable,” Marshall said. “This is the most competitive sport in the world; everybody is out for your job. I want to feed my family as well.”
Of course, after losing most of last year to multiple knee injuries, Trevathan echoed a very similar refrain. “Trust is a two-way street. I’ve got to build a little bit more trust, but I’m getting there,” Trevathan said. “Once I get to the level that I’m not thinking about it, even when I’m walking, that’s probably when I’m going to take the next step.”
Both players have injury questions. Both also have significant IDP upside as three-down starters inside. So does pass-rusher Von Miller, who is playing the same role in a different scheme for Phillips. For fantasy purposes Miller remains more-or-less what he has always been – a high-variance option whose value gets a sizable bump in formats where sacks score highly.
Strong safety T.J. Ward didn’t mince words when telling Wolfe what he expects from the Denver secondary in 2015. “We’re light years ahead of where we were last year,” Ward said. “I want (us) to lead the league in interceptions. I want (us) to lead the league in sacks from the secondary and lead the league in turnovers.”
Cornerback Chris Harris was similarly confident while speaking with ESPN’s Jeff Legwold. “I always feel like I’ve come the long way,’’ Harris said. “We know what this team can do. I know what I can do, we know what this defense can do, and we know what the secondary can do. Now, we just have to go out and show people, handle our business. But no doubt, I think we have what could be a top secondary. Now we have to go out and do it.’’
Harris has some sneaky IDP appeal as a late add in CB-required leagues, but Ward’s numbers were down quite a bit in his first year with the Broncos in 2014. Fantasy owners expecting a return to Ward’s Cleveland heyday are likely setting themselves up to be disappointed.