Following the Broncos' trade with the Titans to acquire five-time Pro Bowler Jurrell Casey, we asked local Nashville reporters Erik Bacharach of The Tennessean and Turron Davenport of ESPN for their take on the new Bronco.
Ben Swanson: First of all, what did you think of the Broncos' trade for Jurrell Casey?
Erik Bacharach, The Tennessean: "I haven't looked exactly at the Broncos' cap situation, but just purely with what they're getting vs. what they're giving up, obviously for the Titans it's a salary dump. The Broncos are getting a guy who's a Pro Bowler each of the past five seasons. ... The past couple years he hasn't been exactly what he was, let's say, at the start of that Pro Bowl run. His production has stayed steady, maybe tapered off a little bit; he's not quite as overwhelming a force as he used to be. That being said, I still think he's got plenty of tread on the tires. I can tell you here in Nashville, we were all blindsided by this move. On paper, thinking about it more, it does make sense, especially if there's another move to come, if you're the Titans, but it was certainly something very surprising, not something that a lot of us expected."
Turron Davenport, ESPN: "Looking at some of the numbers and just how they [Tennessee] could have saved money by making a deal, it's something I wondered if they would do it, but I said to myself, 'There's no way they would do it,' just because of how good of a player he is. I think what's severely underrated about his game is the fact that he's a guy that's very disruptive along the interior. He uses his feet, his hands and he matches those really well to get that pressure and get into the backfield quickly against the run. But what's so underrated is how he can stand up and rush the passer off the edge. At 6'1", 300 pounds, he doesn't have the build that you would normally think is conducive to having that kind of production on the outside, but he brings it. So I think it's a great move for the Broncos, because what I think about is you have the Astronaut, right — Bradley Chubb — and you have Von Miller on the edges, and this guy, Jurrell Casey, sitting in the middle there, he's going to do damage, I really think so. He's declining as a player, but he's been so good that you can afford a decline and still get production."
BS: With his availability, playing about 15 or 16 games every year, how much of a luxury has it been for Tennessee to have a reliable guy like him around?
TD: "It's been huge, because if you watch the beginning of Titans games, like before they come out, it's 99 [Casey] and 59 — and I know you're familiar with Wesley Woodyard. Those guys are the ones who are leading the Titans onto the field, and there's just a degree of leadership that he brings. ... He raises the intensity of everybody in that locker room going onto the field — he's that guy for them. Having that is definitely a benefit. And then one of the biggest things that no one is really talking about from last year is his influence on Jeffery Simmons. They've worked together during training camp, both rehabbing their knees. Now, the knee is something to keep in mind with Jurrell Casey. It caused him to get placed on IR [injured reserve] last year [in 2018] and it reared its ugly head a bit this year as well, so that's something to keep in mind. But just what he's able to do for younger guys on the defense and, as a coach, you want somebody that's going to deliver your message — and not only deliver it by word of mouth, but deliver it by his actions. And that's Jurrell Casey. He's a coach's dream. You're not going to have to worry about anything with that. And I tell you what, if you talk to Vic Fangio and you ask him about that defense with Glenn Dorsey and Ian Williams back when he was with the 49ers, he'll tell you how important that nose tackle, that zero-to-three technique has been for his scheme."
BS: Five straight Pro Bowls is a pretty impressive run. What is it about his skill set that has made him so good?
EB: "The interesting thing about Jurrell Casey, maybe compared to another guy that the Titans have on that defensive line in Jeffery Simmons, who is the physical specimen. The Titans spent a first-round pick on Simmons last year. Casey is really not this hulking, overwhelming figure, just physically; he's 6-foot-1, about 300 pounds, doesn't look like an absolute monster the way Simmons does. But he's just really fundamentally sound. He's got a knack for being disruptive inside. He's still got some quick feet. I think he's good against the run. He's sort of established a floor for himself in terms of what he does when it comes to disrupting the quarterback — I believe he's had [at least] five sacks in each of the past probably six or seven seasons, and he stays steady there. He doesn't really go much higher than that; I don't think the Broncos can expect him to come in and give you double-digit sack numbers, but he's a guy that's been the anchor of this Titans defensive line for a number of years now. He's really been the cog of that defense and a really important leader, as well, for them."
BS: The Broncos will likely return to having a pass-rushing bookend of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb in 2020. With those two guys attacking on the edges, what kind of role could we expect for Casey?
EB: "I think that's something he could take advantage of. The one thing for the Titans the past couple seasons is they've been lacking on the edge; they really haven't had, certainly, a Von Miller type on the edge. But they haven't had a true game-changer on the edge that has really allowed the Titans to be this disruptive team when it comes to the quarterback. That's been one of their biggest needs this offseason — even last offseason. It's why they brought in Cam Wake last year; that didn't really pan out as envisioned. That's why they brought in Vic Beasley just a couple of days ago. That move is geared toward that, toward becoming better on the edge. So when you pair Casey with what's already there in Denver, I think that really bodes well. I think he's a guy, again, that could be a similar presence for that Broncos defense as he was here in Tennessee. Again, wasn't a huge sacks guy, but anchored the defense, was a strong presence up the middle, was good against the run. He did get his sacks from time to time; I think he's had at least 10 quarterback hits going all the way back probably to 2013 or so. ... He's been really steady in terms of just his ability to be fundamentally sound, to be disruptive in spurts — and, again, he's a five-time Pro Bowler. That speaks to just his consistency, the fact that he's able to do that year after year. And he is 30 years old, so, like I mentioned before, his ability has tapered off a tad, but I think he's got plenty of tread on the tires left."
TD: "That gives him a lot of leeway [to be productive] because teams — I don't care how much of a drop-off Von Miller had, he's still one of the best pass-rushers in the league — so teams are going to double-team him to try to slow him down, and Chubb is no slouch when he's healthy. So Casey is going to look at a lot of one-on-one matchups, and I take him one-on-one against a lot of guards in this league — a lot of guards in this league — and centers. Not only is he fast and quick, he's strong and he's able to get his hands on the offensive linemen first, and that does a really good job of pushing the pocket back. Like, whenever the Titans were going against a team — whether it be the Saints with Drew Brees, it could be the Patriots with Tom Brady when he was there — the big thing was always using Jurrell Casey to collapse the pocket from the interior ... and that's going to make the quarterback not be able to step up. So now those guys coming off the edge, you can tier it, right? If you've got the pocket collapsing on the interior, you got Von Miller coming off of one side and he's got to make sure that his pass rush isn't too deep, because that's going to kind of make the quarterback have to move, and then he can flush him right to the guy on the other side, whether it's Chubb or whoever it would be. So it's a good situation to be able to have a multi-level pass rush."
[NOTE: This article's introduction was edited after the trade for Casey became official on Thursday afternoon.]