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Mile High Morning: Broncos projected to make playoffs behind No. 2 defense in projections by ESPN's Mike Clay

The Lead

Behind a defense that is considered to be one of the league's best, the Broncos could very well end their playoff drought this season, according to a new projection by ESPN's Mike Clay.

Denver, who bulked up its secondary during the offseason and will also see the return of defensive playmakers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb from injury, has ESPN's Mike Clay's top-ranked overall defense and is second-ranked in projected points allowed for the upcoming season.

Clay predicts the Broncos will be a close second in points allowed to reigning Super Bowl champs Tampa Bay, who Clay projects to allow 352 points this season. Denver is projected to allow 364.

"The Broncos now have what is arguably the league's best secondary after adding Kyle Fuller, Ronald Darby and first-round pick Pat Surtain II to a room that also includes Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson and Bryce Callahan," Clay said. "Vic Fangio is one of the best defensive minds in the business and has the personnel to field a unit that rivals his elite 2018 Chicago squad."

In the overall defensive rankings, Clay has the Broncos in the No. 1 spot, with their CB, S and EDGE position groups all rated among the top five in the league.

Clay also has the Broncos as a top-half unit overall, slotting them at No. 16 in his power rankings for the season — good enough to be projected as a playoff team. 

"The Broncos have what is arguably the league's best defense on paper led by Von Miller and Justin Simmons," Clay said. "They also have an intriguing group of skill-position players, such as Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant, Melvin Gordon III and Javonte Williams."

Denver is loaded with talent on both sides of the ball on paper, and has everything they need to make a postseason push, according to Clay.

"This roster is good enough to compete for a playoff spot," Clay said.

Below the Fold

Kelly Kleine,  Executive Director of Football Operations and Special Advisor to General Manager George Paton, is setting a standard for women in the NFL.

At only 30 years old, Kleine is the second-highest ranking woman in the NFL on the football side of an organization. Alongside Eagles VP of football operations Catherine Raiche, Kleine is one of the two most-senior women in team scouting roles in NFL history, and one of only 13 women to currently hold a scouting position in the NFL, according to USA Today.

Kleine joined the Broncos in May, reuniting with new Paton in Denver following several seasons of working together in Minnesota. With the Broncos, Kleine has taken on a complex role with a hand in several departments.

"She's involved in everything," said Paton. "She is a liaison to a lot of different departments for me. She's in charge of a number of things and is a sounding board for me."

Kleine's versatile skill set is part of what makes her so valuable to the Broncos organization.

Kleine has received plenty of praise early in her tenure with the Broncos, as those who meet her marvel at the talent and work ethic that has led her to her current position.

"She carries herself with confidence, but in a humble way and she's incredibly talented at what she does," Senior Vice President of Strategy Brittany Bowlen said.

Kleine knows that she is breaking barriers in the NFL and may be a source of inspiration for others — particularly women hoping to break into professional sports — but she hasn't let it affect the way she handles her responsibilities.

"If this helps one person realize that they can be whatever they want to be in the NFL, it gives me chills to think about that," Kleine said, "but I'm just here to work."

Above all, Kleine is passionate about football and is excited to start a new season with the Broncos.

"It's a fresh, new feeling and it's exciting," Kleine said. "New role. Exciting team. I feel the whole team and the whole city is looking forward to it. It's going to be awesome. We have a good roster and a good group of people. I'm pumped to get to Sunday."

The Unclassifieds

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