Word that cornerback Dre Bly had joined other Broncos defenders given the heave-ho in recent days initially came as a surprise. After all, he's widely regarded as one of the NFL's better defenders. Of course, he was paid like one, and the $3.25 million salary (plus $400,000 in workout bonuses) he was slated to receive this season was likely a factor in his getting bounced. So, too, was his decline in interceptions -- he snared two picks last year, as opposed to five during the previous campaign. But this production shortfall can't entirely be left at his door.
Former head coach Mike Shanahan and his staff understood that the squad's pass defense was putrid, as did pretty much every football fan with functioning optic nerves. However, they tried to amend the situation mainly by acquiring proven ball hawks like Bly and Champ Bailey rather than truly addressing the defensive line -- a misbegotten strategy if ever there was one. The lack of a serious pass rush meant opposing quarterbacks had ages to set up, and under those circumstances, no one -- not Bly, not Bailey, not Herb Adderley or Mel Blount or Rod Woodson in their prime -- could consistently shut down receivers over the long haul. Especially not in today's league, whose rules are heavily biased in favor of pass-catchers.
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True, Bly didn't become the game-changer the Broncos needed. But he's been playing with a severe handicap -- a D-line that deserved a D-minus. New coach Josh McDaniels's decision to dismantle the defense is totally justifiable, even if the likes of Bly wind up as scapegoats. If his efforts don't result in a much-improved pass rush, however, they'll all have been for naught.