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Mason's Mailbag: How the Broncos' defense will be a bit different in 2017

You can tweet questions to me with the hashtag #AskMase or use the submission form to your right (if you're viewing on a standard browser) or at the bottom of the page if you're on the mobile site

Hearing Chris Harris Jr. say that they will not be playing so much man coverage, do you think that will benefit there secondary? I mean, they have been one of the best for the past two seasons? Why change it?

-- Braydon Donahoo

Changes are about benefitting the entire defense, not just the secondary. As Vance Joseph mentioned at the NFL Annual Meeting in March, the Broncos had two areas to improve on that side of the line of scrimmage: run defense and first-quarter points allowed. The Broncos ranked 28th in both categories last year, and Joseph and Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods understood that the two issues were connected.

To that end, they targeted the defensive line as an area in need of reinforcements. But as Joseph explained, a key is to show different looks early in the game to try to catch the opponent off-guard. Last year, the defense generally stayed in its bread-and-butter packages early in games. Joseph noted that this allowed opponents to more easily prepare for what they could see in the first 15 snaps. The result: 94 first-quarter points allowed last year, an average of 5.9 per game.

Joseph and Woods will not junk the defensive concepts that worked and made the Broncos' defense elite. But they will tweak and build off of the foundation. Woods made that clear this week.

"I don’t want to come in and change the fingerprints or the foundation of our defense. All I said is I want to sprinkle a little sugar on it," Woods said Wednesday. "It’s something that will give us a little changeup, make offenses work at the line of scrimmage. That’s all we’re doing."

With all due respect, I don't care for the idea, unless it's a last-resort situation -- say, after two 15-minute overtime periods have been played in a postseason game without a winner. Having the two-point conversion tiebreaker right after regulation would take everything that is wrong with college-football overtime, which is a contrived format, and multiply it.

Penalty-kick shootouts exist as a last resort after 30 minutes of extra time to break a deadlock, and I would only want to see the two-point-conversion "shootout" in a similar situation.

If there were 82 games in a regular season, like the NBA or NHL, I'd be in favor of that. But with just 16 regular-season each NFL game has the same value as 5.1 NBA or NHL games. There's too much potential variance on a situation that does not resemble actual game play. It would be preferable to not have regular-season overtime at all and just have tie games end without overtime; that would be a more legitimate result than one that follows a two-point conversion "shootout."

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Do you think Paxton Lynch has a real chance of being starting quarterback this year?**

-- Larry Patterson

I'd say a 50-50 competition represents a "real chance," so, yes. But Trevor Siemian has the same chance. Give it time. Let the repetitions accumulate. We're only through three days of OTAs. If you add up the OTA, minicamp and training-camp/preseason snaps to come, we haven't even reached the 10-percent mark of the competition.

Does/should Chad Kelly, if he's healthy, or even Kyle Sloter get a chance to get first-team reps and even become a starter?

-- Taylor Rhodes

Not this year, unless injuries strike both Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch. Chad Kelly won't be throwing in practice until August because of the wrist injury he suffered leading up to his Pro Day. Realistically, it's all about 2018 for the seventh-round pick. Sloter has potential showed some good decision-making ability this week, but he's also an undrafted rookie who needs plenty of work.

Can a sports writer like yourself be able to predict who is going to win a championship, if a question was asked in terms of this topic?

-- Maria Johnson

Can I? Yes. Do I want to? Not particularly.

Predictions usually end up making pundits look foolish. I still recall Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder of CBS' The NFL Today predicting the then-St. Louis Cardinals to win Super Bowl XX in the 1985 season. The Cardinals went 5-11, lost 10 of their last 12 games and fired head coach Jim Hanifan after the season. The fact that I still remember this horrendous pick all these years later is reason enough for me to stay away from prognostication unless my hand is forced.

Submit a question for the next Mailbag!

The analysis, opinion and speculation in this story represents that of the author, gathered through research and reporting, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Denver Broncos organization.

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