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Mile High Morning: Broncos' defense ranked NFL's seventh-best by The Athletic

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The Lead

While so much focus is on the Broncos' offense as training camp approaches, President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway has already said that the team might have to rely on its defense as the offense gets its legs.

The good news is the defense should be one of the league's best.

The Athletic's Sheil Kapadia ranked Denver's defense seventh in the NFL, after a 2019 season in which the team was 12th in yards allowed, 10th in points allowed and first in red-zone defense. With the Broncos' additions of Jurrell Casey and A.J. Bouye and the return of Bradley Chubb, Kapadia sees an improved group.

"There are a number of reasons to believe they can be better in 2020," Kapadia wrote. "One, turnovers are part luck and part skill, and the Broncos were unlucky last season. They produced a turnover on just 8.9 percent of opponents' drives, which was tied for last. Meanwhile, only five defenses suffered worse injury luck. …

"They have legit blue-chip players in Von Miller, Bradley Chubb (missed 12 games because of an ACL injury last season) and safety Justin Simmons. If they get solid cornerback play, the Broncos could field one of the league's top defenses."

Below the Fold

Though the Broncos unfortunately didn't match that ranking in this under-25-talent ranking on ESPN, it's worth noting that the trio of Drew Lock, Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy were listed as three of the Broncos' four blue-chip under-25 players. "After spending first- and second-round picks on Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant and now Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler in the past three seasons, the Broncos have assembled some of the best young skill talent in football," Scott Spratt wrote.

As the Broncos' tight end group has become one of the team's deepest positions, one player that's easy to overlook is Austin Fort, who has recovered from a torn ACL after an under-the-radar training camp and preseason in 2019. The Denver Post's Ryan O'Halloran spoke with Fort recently about his path back, including how a message from Elway motivated him. "That night, I knew, even though I probably had the hardest road in my life ahead of me, it was going to be OK and I would get to come back and take another shot," Fort told O'Halloran.

The Unclassifieds

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