The Broncos have so many playmakers on offense that it’s hard to distinguish which player is important. Anyone can make a case for Julius Thomas, Demaryius Thomas, Jacob Tamme and Wes Welker. With the defense, it’s easy to come up with one.
That would be Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton. He always comes up with plays that save the Broncos whether it was deflecting Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith’s pass to preserve the Broncos’ 21-14 victory over the Chiefs Sunday or him taking down Tom Brady to prevent the Patriots’ momentum in the AFC Championship Game in January.
It’s safe to say he is the heart and soul of this Broncos defense. They can depend on him to be effective in disrupting the quarterback’s rhythm. He always wins the battle of the trenches against the offensive linemen by using his 335 pound body to his advantage. He creates turnovers.
For my money, he sets the foundation of the Broncos defense. He has toughness in him. He does not back down on a challenge. He is one guy that will give the Broncos everything he has on Sundays.
Knighton is not only a good player, but he has good instincts when it comes to playing defense. He has gotten the most out of his talent. He is everything Von Miller wishes he was.
After spending four years with the Jaguars, the Broncos signed him last year with the idea he can be a productive role player where he would get his sacks or help his lineman out. Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio was familiar with him when they were with the Jaguars together, and he felt Knighton can be effective under his defense.
The former Jaguar has certainly done more than what the Broncos expected. There could be more great things from him this season if his first two games are any indication.
Knighton had 31 tackles and three sacks in his first season as a Bronco last year. In the first two games, he has had four tackles with one game-saving play to show for it. Watching him, he can do more than what he did last year. The more he does well, the more confidence he has and the more he knows what to do in getting to the quarterback.
Del Rio’s defense can be hard to understand, and it’s going to be an adjustment for guys like T.J. Ward and Aqib Talib to get it. That’s why Knighton is going to be valuable for the first two months of the season. He is going to be the Broncos important player on defense along with DeMarcus Ware.
The media and fans like to glorify running backs, cornerbacks, quarterbacks, pass rushers and all. Those positions are difference makers. What’s often lost is the battle of the trenches. It’s not a highlight reel. It’s not something folks can describe at a water cooler, sports bar or talking on sports radio.
Coaches appreciate linemen. They know offensive linemen set the foundation for a quarterback to do well by protecting the quarterback, and defensive linemen set the tone for the defense by destroying offensive linemen and hitting the quarterback. This is where Knighton earns his keep as a Bronco. He makes the job easy for Malik Jackson, Miller and Ware.
Often times, Knighton does work behind the scenes that often go unnoticed by the average fan. Anyone thinks Miller would do any dirty work? Based on his play, he seems scared of contact. It was telling why Fox and Del Rio did not have him in the final play of the game.
Knighton does not self-promote himself. He lets his play do the talking. He gets it. He knows linemen are to be seen, not heard. That’s why the media does not glorify him unless he makes an important play like he did on Sunday. It’s the way he likes it, too.
That type of attitude makes it easy for anyone to root for Knighton. That’s why he is a locker room favorite. That’s why he is a coach’s favorite. That’s why he is a fan favorite.
The Broncos defense may have questions when it comes to how good they are as a unit.
With Knighton, there’s no question about how good he is.
His highlight plays speak for itself.
Contact or Follow Leslie Monteiro: @LightRodWriter