ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As the Broncos' defense prepares for a tough test in Miami, Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph remains confident in his unit's potential.
"We have good enough players to be a good defense, absolutely," Joseph said Thursday. "I expect that. Coming here, my vision was to be a dominant defense, and that hasn't changed. I'm telling you, on tape, in the first two games, you can see it happening."
The Broncos struggled at times in each of the first two weeks of the season, but Joseph said he has seen evidence on tape that Denver can possess one of the league's top defenses.
"Overall, it's not all bad football," Joseph said. "Obviously in our second week, there's going to be some ups and downs from a schematic perspective, but I thought there was some good stuff in both games."
Joseph, though, also recognized that "you have to win games" — and he identified several key areas where Denver must improve to get into the win column.
Among the priorities ahead of a meeting with a talented Miami team is to cut down on the penalties. Denver enters Week 3 with the most defensive penalties in the NFL, and the Commanders used penalties to maintain possession on all three of its final touchdown drives in Week 2.
"Penalties are huge right now," Joseph said. "That's hurting us on defense — [it's] keeping drives alive and we're playing a lot of snaps because of penalties. We've got to coach our way out of penalties. I'll do a better job of coaching the penalties and getting those things right."
In addition to the physical toll of added snaps, Joseph acknowledged there's a mental aspect when a team thinks it has recorded a third-down stop and must remain on the field for a new set of downs.
"It's tough, because third downs, you spend half your week on third downs and red zone and two-minute," Joseph said. "That's the game. First [and] second down is your spring install [and] training camp. Third downs, that's where your time is spent during the week. So when you don't win those — not because of the scheme or not making a play — [but] off a call, a holding call or a face mask, it's demoralizing. You have to reboot and go do it again, but it adds plays to your total. And it also adds points. It's the NFL, right? If you give an offense three more chances on a drive, they're going to make at least a field goal."
Joseph noted that when the Broncos played clean football, they found success against the Commanders; Washington was just 3-of-11 on third-down attempts, excluding penalties.
The Broncos' defense will face another challenge in Week 3 against a team that Joseph called "a track team" because of its speed at nearly every skill position.
"It's going to be a challenge to get those guys stopped," Joseph said.
As Denver looks to slow Tua Tagovailoa and Co., Jospeh knows the importance of open-field tackling — particularly after Denver allowed several big gains on screen plays in Week 2.
"If it's 1-on-1 and they make one guy miss, it can be a 30-, 40-yard gain," Joseph said. "So being great tacklers, keeping the big plays off of us and winning third downs and trying to play penalty free as best as we can — that's the challenge this week."
And while Denver's defense has faced its share of challenges in the early weeks of the season, Joseph made it clear that he still expects to be among the league's best.
"We're on our way, guys," Joseph said. "Again, I'm not discouraged at all. It's Week 2. There's enough good football on tape — both weeks — to say we're going to be a good defense."