Before Von Miller suffered a potentially season-ending ankle injury, the Broncos knew the chance to improve upon their 2019 top-10 defense was within grasp.
But even with Miller sidelined for the near future, could that kind of performance still be on the horizon?
As NFL analyst Andy Benoit says in an article in The Denver Post, there's still a lot to like about the Denver defense.
"I would expect the Broncos to be even better on defense this season and they were quietly very good last year," Benoit told Ryan O'Halloran. "[Justin] Simmons can be a top-five safety. The cornerbacks are good enough and Fangio will know how to hide and help whoever [needs it] and having the slot stabilized with Bryce Callahan now healthy is a big deal. The front is as talented as almost any and [inside linebacker] Alexander Johnson has a chance to be the breakout defensive player of 2020. There's a lot to like."
Callahan's performance with the Bears as a slot cornerback leading up to his departure for the Broncos in 2019 placed him among the league's best at the position, and Johnson was recently predicted to be the NFL's ninth-best linebacker by Pro Football Focus.
But even more than the individual ingredients at each position, Benoit likes the chef behind it all.
"Fangio has, in my opinion, one of the 2-3 best schemes in football," Benoit said. "It is a subtly complex, highly nuanced scheme especially for linebackers and doubly so for safeties."
Make no mistake — I think Miller's impact will be impossible to replace. But last year, the Broncos lost Bradley Chubb and Callahan and still the defense held opponents to the 10th-fewest points in the NFL. With the talent and depth across the roster, it should remain one of the league's best units.
Below the Fold
The headline for Nick Kosmider's season preview for The Athletic neatly sums up the current moment as the Broncos prepare for their first game: "A season starting at intersection of hope and heartbreak." The rest of the article is a thorough examination of where the Broncos are with an opportunity to return to the playoffs and their chances to get there.
Also in The Athletic, they have a collection of comments from scouts about each AFC team's outlook this year. Though of course not everything was rosy, Denver's section reads in part, "[T]here is enough on offense to have some success."