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Three biggest observations about the Broncos defense in OTAs

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Denver Broncos have wrapped up three weeks of voluntary offseason training activities at UC Health Training Center. Next up is mandatory minicamp starting today, then a big break before training camp begins for the team in mid-July.

Broncos head coach Vic Fangio gave some positive feedback on his team’s progress about halfway through these voluntary OTAs.

“I think the guys are picking things up quickly. That’s a compliment to the assistant coaches and the jobs they’re doing with these guys and which they did in Phase One and Phase Two in the classroom, and that’s a compliment to the players that they have been able to transition to on-field, 11-on-11 football and do what they’ve been taught. That’s a big transition from classroom to the field,” Fangio said.

Here are the three biggest observations from the Broncos defense during three weeks of OTAs.


3. Defense Dominates with Deception

There is no question the Broncos defense should be much improved in 2019. Last year under defensive coordinator Joe Woods, the defense was stale and predictable. Players seemed to be working against each other at times and it certainly didn’t seem like there was much cohesiveness among Broncos defenders.

This year, that should all change under Fangio – mainly because it has to be based upon the blueprint of his defense.

Fangio’s defense is all about deception before the snap. They want to show one defense then switch into another that an opponent does not expect, and with Fangio that should lead to a ton of disruption. The Broncos have the pieces to absolutely wreck an opponent’s game plan on a weekly basis.

Broncos safety Justin Simmons gave us some clues as to what makes Fangio’s defense so special.

“I think the biggest part about the defense is that it is all communication based. It’s about trusting guys and seeing plays develop. Guys not mentally being on the same page, but physically. Like reading it how each other’s bodies would read it, as weird as that sounds,” Simmons continued, “It’s just being in each other’s shoes and feeling out the plays. It’s a great concept and I’ve loved every second of getting to dive into it. We haven’t even scratched the surface yet in OTAs. I’m excited to keep learning.”

It’s pretty scary to consider what the Broncos could be on defense this year if they have yet to scratch the surface at OTAs.


2. Even Better Chubb

Bradley Chubb had a great rookie season in 2018, but what he could do in 2019 in this defense might make that rookie production pale in comparison. It’s only practice and the reps are not live, but there are times when Chubb looks un-blockable (and unbelievable). Chubb can easily get around any offensive tackle tasked with blocking him and seems more comfortable stacking pass-rushing moves.

Von Miller has never had 20 sacks in a single season during his Hall of Fame career. Chubb may be able to reach that mark in his second season. Yes, that’s a lofty goal and perhaps unrealistic, but that’s how good Chubb has looked during three weeks of OTAs.

Chubb put in a ton of work this offseason, studying the Bears defense under Fangio and managing his diet and exercise. That work gives the second-year pro confidence that he can hit the ground running in 2019.

“It definitely helps because I’ve been putting in the work on the field and off the field when it comes to the mental side of it. Just trying to do everything to better myself so that I can help better this team. I feel like if I have that big jump in year two, then we’ll win more games. If you have all of these young guys being a better version of themselves in year two, it’s going to be special,” Chubb said.

Chubb is a special player and under the guidance of Fangio we may see second-year production from him that far surpasses even the biggest fan’s expectations.


1. More Will Parks

It was good to see All-Pro cornerback Chris Harris Jr. back out at OTAs last week. He ended his contract dispute with the Broncos by signing to earn more money this season and hit the open market in 2020. Harris did not play much in practice last week, earning only two reps per drill according to Fangio.

However, it was interesting to note how the arrival of Harris led to more looks for Will Parks.

Parks has been getting quite a few looks at OTAs over the last three weeks, so perhaps it was more perception than anything, but it did stand out how much Parks shined with Harris on the field. The Broncos defense looked whole with Harris out on the field, manning the outside corner position. This allowed Bryce Callahan to play in his more natural spot of the slot and we did see corner/safety Kareem Jackson play outside opposite of Harris.

Last year, it was a tale of two seasons for Parks. In the first part of the season, Parks seemed lost on the football field. There were times where it looked like he didn’t know where to line up, what the play call was or what to do after the ball was snapped. Then, something clicked.

Parks put on a show in the second half of the 2018 season. He was regularly around the ball, made big plays (see the game against the Steelers) and was sound with his technique. That’s the player we need to see more from in 2019.

This Fangio defense, with all of its deception and versatility, could really play to the strengths of Parks on Sundays.