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We hear Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels’ announcement that the team would transition to a 3-4 defense was welcome news to Broncos DEs Jarvis Moss and Tim Crowder, who were the team’s top two picks in the 2007 draft. Moss and Crowder struggled to get playing time last season, and both looked extremely disappointing in limited duty. Moss is expected to become a “stand-up” defender in the new scheme, where he should be a better fit, and Crowder appears more suited for a role as a 3-4 end.
Switch to 3-4? Not so quick
The Broncos face a personnel problem on Nolan's defense.
By Mike Klis
The Denver Post
Josh McDaniels' NFL background is steeped in a 3-4 defensive system.
The Broncos' new head coach now has a defensive coordinator in Mike Nolan whose expertise lies with the 3-4.
It's all there for the Broncos to become a 3-4 defense.
There's just one little problem: Other than cornerback Champ Bailey, there may not be a 3-4 player on the defensive roster.
"Obviously we'll have to adjust the personnel some," said Jim Goodman, who runs the Broncos' player personnel department. "(McDaniels) may want to do a hybrid type thing where he goes to a 4-3 some."
Nolan flew into Denver on Tuesday after reaching an agreement on a two-year contract to become the Broncos' new defensive coordinator. Nolan becomes the team's fourth
defensive coordinator in four years, but the first for McDaniels. Previous defensive coordinators were Bob Slowik (2008), Jim Bates (2007) and Larry Coyer (2006).
They all ran the 4-3 system preferred by previous Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan. Nolan said his 22 seasons of NFL coaching have been evenly split between the 3-4 and the 4-3, but McDaniels comes from a New England organization that has primarily been a 3-4 base defense during the Bill Belichick era.
"We still have to go through the evaluation process with our own players, and then see who's going to be out there in the free-agent market, what the draft looks like," Nolan said. "We have a ways to go before we make that decision."
If ever the Broncos were going to make such a significant defensive conversion, though, this figures to be the time. True, the current roster was assembled for a 4-3 defense. But after surrendering 28.0 points per game to rank 30th in the NFL this season and 25.6 points in 2007 to rank 28th, the defensive roster was going to get blown up anyway.
That doesn't mean every player but Bailey will be gone. Of the roughly 25 defensive players, anywhere from 10 to 15 figure to stay. But the Broncos are likely to acquire at least one player,
and probably two, who are considered well-suited for the 3-4 defense at every position.
"They may have personnel that is more suited for one scheme, but you may want to start to go toward another," McDaniels said during his news conference Monday. "There are going to have to be some decisions made in the near future with where we want to go here in the long term. We want to have a consistent scheme."
Here's a look at each Denver defensive position and how it fits the 3-4:
• Defensive line: One problem the Broncos had when they experimented with the 3-4 in midseason was they didn't have anything close to a true nose tackle. Defensive tackle Marcus Thomas continues to develop, but not at nose. Kenny Peterson played some nose,
and he was a freshman when McDaniels was a senior on the same high school team. De-wayne Robertson would have to accept a significant pay cut to return.
At defensive end, Elvis Dumervil is a keeper as a pass rusher, but even he is considered a better fit in the 4-3 because of his relatively small size.
• Linebacker: D.J. Williams is an exceptional weakside linebacker in the 4-3, but he's not a pass rusher, which is essential for at least one outside linebacker in the 3-4. Boss Bailey may be the best 3-4 fit among the Broncos' outside linebackers, but his injury history is a major concern. At inside linebacker, Spencer Larsen can play, but the Broncos figure to add at least two more.
• Cornerback: Champ Bailey can play for anybody, anytime, in any scheme. Dre Bly may not return, however, and nickel back Karl Paymah is an unrestricted free agent.
• Safety: Regardless of 4-3 or 3-4 or box-and-one, the Broncos will seek two new starters here. Marquand Manuel is an overachiever and a good box safety, and rookie Josh Barrett showed promise. But don't be surprised if the Broncos make this position their top priority this offseason.
Source: THe Denver Post