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Mason's Mailbag: Where the pass defense stands

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.

Short answer: No.

Slightly longer answer: No, and as frustrating it can be, willy-nilly changes don't often help the situation, especially in the long term. Further, even if it was time to panic in the sporting sense, what good would it do? There are more than enough circumstances in life that can cause panic without adding a spectator sport to the list, at least from the fan perspective. Panic doesn't solve problems.

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The pass defense isn't doing as well as it did last year. Is this because we are missing T.J. Ward or is there another problem?**

-- Jon Taylor

Justin Simmons and Will Parks have steadily improved, so I don't think the release of Ward has had an impact. And by some metrics, the pass defense is doing better. One that jumps out is that the Broncos are allowing fewer explosive pass plays -- defined as gains of 15 or more yards -- this year, permitting one every 9.32 pass plays, compared with one every 8.61 pass plays last year.

But there are two key changes. One is not what the Broncos are doing, but rather how teams are attacking them, with fewer passes outside at the cornerbacks, and more throws inside, particularly to tight ends going against linebackers and safeties. Just take the last five games, in which 37.4 percent of the gross passing yards have come from tight ends; that is 15.4 percentage points above the league average.

The other is the changes the Broncos absorbed at outside linebacker with the retirement of DeMarcus Ware and the injury suffered on the first day of training camp by Shane Ray. Shaquil Barrett's performance helped cushion the blow, but Ray has been missed. This has helped prevent the takeaways that were a part of the Broncos' equation, and is the biggest reason why the season-long passer rating allowed by the Broncos is 91.7.

"Offensively, teams are throwing the ball quick against us," Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods said Friday. "We haven’t had that many opportunities, but we definitely have to take advantage when we do."

Ray's return Monday night gives the Broncos better depth on the edge and more options -- including using Barrett, Ray and Von Miller together, something Woods suggested was "definitely going to happen." This should create more opportunities for takeaways, although the Chiefs represent a difficult opponent against whom to begin that task, having run 423 consecutive offensive snaps without a turnover.

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What kind of reasons did they give for releasing Peko? I thought he was to be the anchor for the defensive line.**

-- Robert Withrow

Domata Peko Sr. is an anchor for the defensive line and is having one of the best seasons of his career, which was documented last week. You're probably thinking of his cousin, Kyle Peko, who was re-signed to the practice squad last Tuesday after being waived the previous Saturday.

Just curious with the onslaught of injuries to our WRs lately, how is Carlos Henderson doing? Wasn't he brought on to be that third WR that we needed? I know he got injured, but I didn't think it was that serious of an injury that would keep him out this long.

-- Justin Bobrick

Henderson's recovery from the torn ligament in his thumb is coming along well, but when he was placed on injured reserve on the day of the final cutdown, he became ineligible to return during the regular season. To be placed on recallable injured reserve, a player has to be on the 53-man roster for at least one day after the 53-man deadline.

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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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