Broncos' move to 4-3 defense will dictate busy offseason

The Denver Broncos had one of the most tumultuous seasons in recent memory. After trading top receiver Brandon Marshall leading up to the draft, they made Tim Tebow a first-round pick, another controversial decision, and eventually fired Josh McDaniels, the man who made those calls. John Fox is now in control, which should stabilize the situation, but there is a lot of work to do.

Fox is a defensive-minded coach and is going back to his version of the 4-3 after the failed 3-4 experiment of the last regime. That requires multiple personnel decisions. On the plus side, there aren't many free-agent issues to deal with except from the idea of paying veteran corner Champ Bailey.

On offense, is an entire system going to be built around Tebow's skills or will the Broncos turn to a more-traditional approach with Kyle Orton?

The biggest obstacle ahead might be time. Time to evaluate players the new staff has never coached. Time to install a new offense and defense. Time to keep an anxious fan base patient enough to see the program through after the team has won just 20 games over the last three seasons.

In January and February, took a look at the five pressing questions facing each team as it heads into the offseason.

AFC East:
» Buffalo Bills: Must remedy draft failures
» Miami Dolphins: Need to overcome awkwardness
» New England Patriots: Issues start on defense
» New York Jets: Rocky road to reach Super Bowl
AFC North:
» Baltimore Ravens: Immense pressure on Flacco
» Cincinnati Bengals: Distractions cloud team's future
» Cleveland Browns: New coach faces no easy fix
» Pittsburgh Steelers: Father Time is biggest hurdle
AFC South:
» Houston Texans: Big issues on defense
» Indianapolis Colts: Big decisions on key players
» Jacksonville Jaguars: Same issues haunt team
» Tennessee Titans: Big void at QB with Young gone
AFC West:
» Denver Broncos: Defense will dictate offseason
» Kansas City Chiefs: Sustaining is next challenge
» Oakland Raiders: Team has hope, questions
» San Diego Chargers: Bolts aim to bounce back
NFC East:
» Dallas Cowboys: More holes to fill than coach
» New York Giants: Many lingering questions
» Philadelphia Eagles: More drama on horizon
» Washington Redskins: Huge problems to tackle
NFC North:
» Chicago Bears: Cutler opens deep bag of issues
» Detroit Lions: Closing in on respectability
» Green Bay Packers: Champs face tricky offseason
» Minnesota Vikings: Uncertainty surrounds team
NFC South:
» Atlanta Falcons: Need help to take next step
» Carolina Panthers: Plenty of room to improve
» New Orleans Saints: Time to tackle backfield, D
» Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Next step won't be easy
NFC West:
» Arizona Cardinals: QB quandary still an issue
» San Francisco 49ers: Must settle QB situation
» Seattle Seahawks: Playoff run can't hide issues
» St. Louis Rams: Reason for optimism

1. Where to go with No. 2 pick?

The Broncos have the second pick in the draft and there will be a fine defensive lineman on the board. They probably get a shot at DT Nick Fairley, who has the skills of a solid three-technique tackle. He can penetrate and be disruptive in the backfield. No one on the roster has those skills. They have to study DE Da'Quan Bowers if they want the end over the tackle. History says they will not find a young quality defensive lineman in free agency and they are guaranteed one of these two if they stay put. A move down might be a solid option for a team with so many needs. Denver was the 31st-ranked defense against the run and 25th vs. the pass.

2. Is depth needed in backfield?

Even though Knowshon Moreno is a solid young back, the run game finished 26th overall. Fox has always liked a two-back rotation and he might look to his old running back DeAngelo Williams to join the Broncos if free agency ever gets off the ground. If he wants a younger player, Fox might be interested in studying Oklahoma's DeMarco Murray or Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers at the combine.

3. Who will be man in the middle?

Let's assume Elvis Dumervil returns to defensive end in the new scheme as does Robert Ayers. Both were college 4-3 ends and I'm sure Fox evaluated them coming out in the draft. The team will need a true middle linebacker or a strong-side linebacker. Fox converted a safety, Thomas Davis, in Carolina and that worked out well prior to his injury. Oregon's Casey Matthews and Washington's Mason Foster are two interesting candidates.

4. Is tight end a must in draft?

Fox has used blocking tight ends and possession-receiving types in Carolina, but Denver needs a vertical threat at the position to prevent people from crowding the line of scrimmage. A guy like Arkansas' D.J. Williams or maybe Wisconsin's Lance Kendricks could be on the radar. Before the fourth round is over, the Broncos need a more dynamic option.

5. Is secondary a primary concern?

If the Broncos re-sign Bailey, then this need is more safety specific. Fox has always liked veteran players and I suspect Bailey is back, but you never know. A safety like Oklahoma's Quinton Carter or UCLA's Rahim Moore will get a close look at the combine as will several cornerbacks. In Carolina, Fox played with defensive backs taken early and it's important to follow that trend.

If Fox gets the normal amount of offseason time to evaluate his players and coach them up, he will quickly get things going in the right direction.