By Rich Kurtzman
The Denver Broncos are gearing up for a playoff run. That means securing a weakness and adding depth to their depleted defensive line.
On Tuesday, the Broncos signed veteran free agent Jeremy Mincey, formerly of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Mincey is a sixth-year professional out of the University of Florida, enjoying his entire career in Jacksonville. Over that time, he totaled 160 tackles with 20 sacks, six forced fumbles and one interception. But his best season came in 2011 (57 tackles, eight sacks) and Mincey’s production definitely declined the last two years. This season, he has only 16 total tackles and two sacks.
Mincey, a 6’4,” 265-pounder, played under former Jaguars head coach and current Denver defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, meaning his transition into the defense should be an easy one. Which is exactly what the Broncos need, with two weeks to go until the playoffs begin and a D-line that has been devastated due to injuries.
Starting defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson was placed on the Injured Reserve in late November due to a dislocated hip suffered in the loss to the New England Patriots. Not only was he a starter, taking a majority of valuable reps in the middle of the line, but Vickerson is also one of the most veteran players in the group. His leadership has been missed.
Also out is defensive end Derek Wolfe, who suffered seizure-like symptoms before the Kansas City Chiefs game in mid-November. Wolfe was rushed to the hospital and returned to the team on November 29, but he has yet to make it back onto the practice field, let alone the gridiron.
After adding Mincey, the Broncos will have to either cut a player or place one on Injured Reserve, and it seems Wolfe may be a candidate for the IR. No official move has been made as of yet (1 p.m. MT) according to the team’s official website.
To this point, Denver’s 36 sacks puts them in the middle of the NFL at 15th overall, and the pass-rush has been seemingly non-existent in some games. Of course, with Von Miller playing the entire season and Elvis Dumervil on the opposite edge last year, the team led the league with 52 sacks. That pressure not only works for losses of yards; it also forces quarterbacks to throw before they think and toss interceptions.
The lack of depth and loss of two key players on that defensive line has been even more easy to see when opponents run the rock. In the loss to the San Diego Chargers last Thursday night, Denver allowed 177 rushing yards, the eighth time this season the Broncos have seen an opposing running attack eclipse the century mark.
Now they have to focus more than ever to sure things up, with two games – against the Houston Texans and Oakland Raiders on the road – as tune-ups before the playoffs.
For more Broncos news and updates, visit Broncos Central.
Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Rich is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.