|03-23-2005, 01:08 AM||#1|
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Arcadia, CA
Shanny discusses the LBs, the base 4-3, possibility Pryce may stay
Middle men take charge of defense
By Bill Williamson
Denver Post Staff Writer
Kapalua, Hawaii - While coach Mike Shanahan and his staff continue to rebuild the Broncos' defensive front, one fact about his new-look defense is clear.
Its power base will be at linebacker. With a reconstruction project afoot up front, the centerpiece of Denver's defense will be the men in the middle.
"We should be good there," Shanahan said Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings in Maui. "There won't be many (linebacking units) that are faster."
Denver, which lost three starters off last season's fourth- ranked defense, made its major defensive splash by bringing back Ian Gold. The linebacker signed a five-year contract with an $8.5 million signing bonus, returning to the Broncos after spending one year with Tampa Bay.
Gold will replace Donnie Spragan, who signed with Miami. Gold joins middle linebacker Al Wilson, one of the top players at his position, and fellow outside linebacker D.J. Williams, who finished third in the NFL defensive rookie of the year voting last year, to form one of the most athletic linebacking units in the league.
Gold will play the "reduction" linebacker role, which Derrick Brooks handled with Tampa Bay. He'll essentially play on the weak side but will flip flop to the strong side at times. Williams will switch to the strong side, but will play some on the weak side, Shana- han said. Because of their speed and athleticism, both could play in the secondary in some nickel-defense packages.
Shanahan said the team will use the 3-4 defensive front in nickel packages, which it has done sporadically through his 10-year tenure with the Broncos. Shanahan said the 3-4 will be employed more with rush ends Anton Palepoi and Patrick Chukwurah moving outside with the Broncos' strong complement of linebackers.
"We like what we've got there," Shanahan said of his linebackers, "but you have to be good everywhere."
With the stout linebacking group and the secondary set, work still remains along the defensive line.
Denver is concentrating on free agent Courtney Brown, who likely would step in and start at defensive end. Brown finished a visit to Seattle on Tuesday and is likely to choose between the Broncos, Redskins, Jaguars and Seahawks. The former No. 1 overall draft pick missed the final 14 games of last season with a left foot injury.
"There's a lot of competition for him," Washington coach Joe Gibbs said Tuesday of Brown. "We're not confident we're going to get him, but we want him."
Denver completed a visit with Baltimore defensive end Marques Douglas on Tuesday and is talking with Atlanta defensive tackle Ed Jasper.
The Broncos are retooling the line after the free-agent loss of end Reggie Hayward to Jacksonville and the likely departure of Trevor Pryce, whom the team is trying to trade or could release to free salary cap room. Shana- han was reluctant to talk about Pryce but said it is possible the former Pro Bowl player could return, a scenario that likely would include restructuring Pryce's contract.
Shanahan said Denver's defense will not lose much in transition. He said the loss of starting safety Kenoy Kennedy in free agency hurts, but he is confident Nick Ferguson can step in and fill the role.
"Things change," Shanahan said. "You have to make the moves that make sense for the whole defense."
In Denver, that starts with a new, stronger linebacking group.