ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Tweaking an NFL roster can mean an upheaval of your team's average age. Executives tend to discard older players with double-digit surgeries and balky knees for fresh legged 20-somethings.
If you keep too many veterans, your squad might fall behind the speed of the game. Too many neophytes in uniform may leave your team less disciplined and less resourceful, so finding the right mix of youth and age is the key to success. The Broncos hope to find the blend at every position, but with the defensive backfield, they believe they've found the ideal composition.
"To me, that is a setup that (General Manager) Brian (Xanders) and I have talked about trying to put in place," Head Coach Josh McDaniels said. "Who better to learn from as a young safety than
Last season McDaniels and Xanders brought in three defensive backs in the mold of their superstar cornerback, Bailey. Dawkins, Hill, and Goodman were all intelligent players older than 30 who hadn't lost a step.
With four solid starters in place in the secondary, the Broncos could approach the draft looking for corners and safeties to inject youth back into the blend. The team snatched up cornerbacks Smith and Carter (an undrafted free agent) and safeties
"It's amazing," Smith said. "I have the luxury to sit between two future Hall-of-Famers in Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins ... André Goodman is really smart and Renaldo Hill is probably the smartest guy we have on the team."
The acquisitions led to yet another Pro Bowl selection for both Bailey and Dawkins and a team-high five interceptions for Goodman. Hill had two sacks to go along with two picks and the unit led the defense to the No. 3 ranking in the league against the pass.
Secondary coach Ed Donatell had four coaches on the field passing down his message whenever he was coaching up the rookies.
"We have some philosophy things that are important to us and some core values in our defense," Donatell said. "We teach them as defensive coaches and these guys reinforce them. That reinforcement from peer to peer is like gold."
The group had considerable success stifling quarterbacks in their first year playing together. Now they've had a whole offseason to further develop their instincts together as a whole.
"We're kind of comfortable with the group we have, especially in my unit," Goodman said.
The few new defensive backs this season fit into both ends of the blend. Jones is a 28-year-old who's comfortable lining up as the third corner or as a safety. He said he expects to contribute on special teams and compete with Smith for time at nickel back.
The unit spearheaded the defense last year, and they feel like they have the right mix to make a similar impact in 2010.
- Champ Bailey's nine career Pro Bowl selections tie for the most by a cornerback in NFL history.
Josh Barrettplaced seventh on the Broncos with eight special-teams stops in 14 games in 2009.
- David Bruton made his NFL starting debut last season vs. Oakland on December 20th.
- Tony Carter competed on Denver's practice squad for the first 14 weeks of 2009 before he was called up to the active roster.
- Brian Dawkins is one of only three players in NFL history with at least 35 interceptions and 20 sacks for his career.
- André Goodman tallied 43 tackles last season, the most of any season of his career.
- Renaldo Hill has started 57 games at safety and 42 games at cornerback during his career.
- Nate Jones has six sacks in his career, the sixth-most for a cornerback in the league since his rookie year.
- Darcel McBath registered a team high 11 special-teams stops and snagged two interceptions last season.
- Alphonso Smith returned 10 punts, the second-most on the team, in addition to contributing on defense.
- Perrish Cox led the nation with 19 pass breakups in his final season at Oklahoma State.
- Syd'Quan Thompson set a school record at Cal by starting all 52 possible games during his four-year career.
Kyle McCarthywas the first Notre Dame defensive back to register more than 100 tackles in a season. Cassius Vaughnamassed 152 tackles and five picks in his career at the University of Mississippi.