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Broncos training camp burning question: How will Su'a Cravens help the pass defense?

Last year around the league, 40.8 percent of all passing touchdowns were scored by tight ends and running backs. Against the Broncos, that percentage was 51.7.

That single statistic underscores the Broncos' issues covering tight ends and running backs out of the backfield -- and is a key reason why they traded for Su'a Cravens in March.

"He's a unique player," Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods said during OTAs. "You can see the natural instincts when he's in the box. When he's in the box, he fits the run like a linebacker. Right now, you can see that. You can see it's easy for him.

"We're just really spending a lot of time teaching him how to play off the ball. Playing the deep safety position. But I think he's going to really help us in terms of what we're able to do with our sub-packages. I think there's a few things actually we can do that we couldn't do last year."

Woods has worked to expand the range of the Broncos' defensive packages in his second year as a coordinator, and the presence of Cravens affords him flexibility that he did not always have last year -- which Woods believes will help the Broncos avoid their issues on intermediate-range passes last year.

"He's excited, and so am I," Cravens told Orange and Blue 760 this month. "But I think he's really excited about not only being able to do a bunch of different packages, but to be able to stay in a base package and be able to play no matter the personnel or the formation that the offense may give us. 

"I'm excited about it. I'm excited to be able to blitz. I'm excited to be able to cover tight ends and running backs out of the backfield."

There are few players with Cravens' skill set, which was a perfect match for the Broncos' needs. With Will Parks and Jamal Carter also returning, Cravens also allows the Broncos to have a more liberal rotation of safeties. That gives them the option of resting a key safety even when the Broncos use three-safety sub packages -- something which has been a staple of their defense the last three years.

"Su'a just gives us another level of our defense that we can totally explore into," safety Justin Simmons said. "He gives us so much more versatility and mobility, both at safety and if we put him [in] our dime and nickel packages."

Late in OTAs, Woods offered a hint of what was to come, making heavy, aggressive use of his safeties against the run and in the pass rush.

"I just can't wait to compete," Cravens said. "I know [Woods], he's got a lot of big plans for me and he kind of sampled a few of those things this past OTA. Things looked good from what I've seen so far. I can't even imagine what he's going to draw up for the teams that we've got this upcoming season."

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