The two teams that will play in Super Bowl XLV have been established: The Green Bay Packers will face the Pittsburgh Steelers on February 6th. The Denver Broncos and new Head Coach John Fox would be wise to follow suit of the two team's methods of getting to the Super Bowl.
There are several key similarities between the Steelers and Packers; both teams have solid defenses with excellent pass rushes. Ranked first and second respectively in points allowed per game last season, the Steelers and Packers both recorded over 46 sacks in 2010. Denver, on the other hand, lacked a pass rush, ranking last in the NFL after recording a mere 23 sacks. The return of star outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil -- who missed all of the 2010 season while on injured reserve -- will be vital for the Broncos. An undersized pass rusher, Dumervil is very comparable to Pittsburgh's James Harrison and Green Bay's Clay Matthews, two outside linebackers who excel in disrupting an offense's passing game.
In addition to getting an added pass rush on the edge with the return of Dumervil, the Broncos need to beef up the down linemen. Regardless of if they stay in a 3-4 defense or switch to Fox's 4-3 defensive scheme, Denver needs more bulk up front. Nose tackle B.J. Raji anchors Green Bay's defensive line, weighing in at 337. At twelve pounds lighter, Casey Hampton is the man filling A-gaps in Pittsburgh. The Broncos' Jamal Williams has the weight and experience, as well as the age to go with it. At age 34, Williams wasn't able to help the Broncos defense generate a push last season, and didn't have a strong support cast around him. A fast and strong defensive end, as well as a dominating nose tackle, would help get the Broncos defense back on the right track.
Holding the second overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, the Broncos have many options to choose from. If they opt to not trade down and accumulate more picks, Alburns' Nick Fairley -- a 6-5, 300 pound nose tackle -- would be the smartest pick, providing he's available. Fairley, who teams doubled and even triple teamed frequently, recorded 11 sacks and over 20 tackles for a loss as a junior. If Denver passes over Fairley, there are many over defensive ends and tackles in the draft that would help to bulk up the Broncos defensive line, and help the team get a pass rush again. Drafting a stud down lineman is the first step the Broncos need to make to get the defense back to being dominate.
An improved line will improve the entire defense. Just as there are coverage sacks that you no doubt heard of while watching this years playoffs, there are also pressure interceptions. When a defenses' secondary coverage is so good that it forces the quarterback to hold the ball longer than he should, resulting in a sack, it is called a coverage sack. Similarly, when a quarterback is frequently harassed and feels pressure from the defensive line, he can become rattled and lose his focus and rhythm, often resulting in poor decisions which result in interceptions. The return of Dumervil and added beef to the line will help the Broncos get to opposing quarterbacks more often, helping out the secondary.
The presumed starting linebackers next season, D.J. Williams, Mario Haggan and Joe Mays, are a capable, aggressive, hard-hitting group that would pair well with an improved defensive line. Now the Broncos face the task of finding all the pieces of the puzzle that will complete John Fox's defense.