Defensive tackle: Denver finished the 2007 season 30th in the NFL versus the run. Any good run defense has to start up front with DTs who can protect the second level. The Broncos do not have big, physical LBs versus the run. They have athletic LBs who need to be protected and allowed to flow laterally to the football. Last year the Broncos moved DT Gerard Warren and cut Sam Adams and Amon Gordon, while free-agent acquisition Alvin McKinley did not turn into the force they thought he would be. An improved run defense in 2008 must start here.
Offensive tackle: A big part of Denver’s success on offense is its ability to be solid up front. Veteran LOT Matt Lepsis has told the team he is going to retire. Erik Pears, who played a lot in the absence of Lepsis the previous season, moved over to the right side as a starter and was not as effective in 2007. Unproven Ryan Harris is expected to start at LOT in 2008 with Pears the starter on the right side. Neither player has enough experience to say they will get it done and the depth at the position is not very good.
Middle linebacker: Former WLB and first-round pick D.J. Williams moved from the weak side into the middle last season and although he led the team in tackles, his explosive plays went down. A lot of his tackles came down field and not at or behind the line of scrimmage as the team hoped. The other reason the team struggled versus the run was because they released MLB Al Wilson last offseason. The loss of Wilson meant a huge void in leadership in the middle of the field. Denver needs to find a legitimate MLB and move Williams back to the weak side where he can be the playmaker he once was.
Safety: Veteran safety John Lynch was nicked up a lot last season and he is clearly at or near the end of his career. Other starter Nick Ferguson is a unrestricted free agent and likely will not be back, unless the price is right. He is also not getting any younger and is suited best as a third safety. Denver does not have any experienced depth at the safety position and need at least one new starter and a second would not hurt. Once again, upgrades at the safety position will help the interior of Denver’s run defense because Lynch is not the force he once was in run support.
Wide receiver: No. 1 receiver Javon Walker missed a large portion of last season after having a smaller scale surgery on the knee he had previously needed repaired after tearing his ACL. Brandon Marshall emerged as an up-and-coming No. 1, but after that the WR group becomes thin. Walker may never reach his full potential because of the knee issues and even though Marshall played excellent last season, Denver could use a few more bodies at the position to create better competition amongst the unit.
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