Denver Broncos evolve into Orange Crush 2.0
Some folks might remember the Dallas Cowboys and their Doomsday Defense, or the Minnesota Vikings as the Purple People Eaters. Others may recall the Steel Curtain from the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Over-the Hill Gang of the Washington Redskins. The 70’s seemed to be the decade of nicknames for the NFL based upon the level of play and the players that anchored each team’s performance. Lately, local writers have been comparing this year’s Denver Broncos defense to that of the Orange Crush defense of the 70’s. Players such as Champ Bailey, Von Miller, and Elvis Dumervil, all of who are headed to the Pro Bowl, bubble to the top of discussion. There are, however, at least two other players on the Broncos’ defense who’ve been denied a deserving flight to Honolulu.
The first is 26 year old Wesley Woodyard in his fifth year. A weak side linebacker out of Kentucky, Woodyard wasn’t the most flashy, game-changing player on the team but the man consistently plugged running lanes and pounded ball carriers. Woodyard leads the Broncos with 113 combined tackles on the season, 36 more than the next player on the team. He also leads the team in solo tackles with 70. That’s at least 12 more than any other player on Denver’s defense, including Pro Bowler, Bailey. Adding to Woodyard’s stat line is five and a half sacks, three interceptions and a forced fumble. He’s obviously a ball hawk and his level of play has blind-sided opponents. Thanks to Woodyard’s charity work through the Goodwill and his 16 Ways Foundation, fans should be aware of him for next year’s ballot. Miller might be the highlight, commercial anchor of the Broncos’ defense that everyone likes to talk about but Woodyard is the pillar of the Orange Crush 2.0 which the rest of the defense can rally around.
Next is a game changer. A momentum swinger. Chris Harris Jr. has come from nowhere to make a name for himself as a Denver Bronco. Harris is in his second year undrafted in 2011 from the Jayhawks and combined for 72 total tackles in his rookie campaign. Although he doesn’t have as many stops this year as he had last year, Harris has two and a half sacks and has totaled three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. Fans can remember both instances of Harris racing down the sidelines, ball in hand taking momentum with him. The second went as the longest interception returned for a touchdown in franchise history. Harris is also considered to be the third-best run support corner in the entire NFL and the third-best coverage corner in the AFC, according to ProFootballFocus.
Every team has players that deserve spots in the Pro Bowl. The debates are endless. The Broncos have Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker as obvious candidates but Woodyard and Harris are diamonds in the rough who deserve to be recognized for their outstanding production this season. The fact that they’re not headed to the Honolulu in January is a testament that the Pro Bowl is just as much a popularity contest as it is recognition of honor.
Thankfully, Woodyard and Harris may not mind missing a vacation to Honolulu due to a business trip to New Orleans.