In an offseason of change on the defense, John Lynch faces another one in this, his 15th offseason.
The defensive scheme is different, although his first glance at what exists reveals a system that he admitted Monday reminds him of what he ran during his years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But without team captain Al Wilson — and with linebacker Keith Burns headed for the sidelines as an assistant coach and Jake Plummer in retirement — the Broncos’ returning captains corps includes just Lynch and Rod Smith, although safety Nick Ferguson has been a special-teams captain.
Leadership, though, is about more than what would be indicated by a “C” on the jersey if the NFL ever decided to go NHL-style with the designation.
“You can’t have enough good leaders, so when people say that one guy was the leader of the team, that’s not necessarily accurate — particularly on the good teams,” Lynch said. “I think it takes a lot of great leaders, and that’s where we’re fortunate here. We’ve got a lot of guys who spent a lot of years in the league. We’ve got young guys like Jay Cutler that are going to have to step into leadership roles, but there’s plenty of leadership here.”
So where does one turn for leadership? Lynch — who as a team leader is rarely shy about pressing a button to ignite a flame or two — offered some names as candidates — linebackers D.J. Williams and Ian Gold and defensive linemen Kenard Lang and Ebenezer Ekuban, among others, who include …
“Champ Bailey’s not a big rah-rah guy, but just by his example, the way he goes out and prepares every week, that’s leadership,” Lynch said.
But even by the admission of the No. 1 Bronco, fully replacing Wilson is no guarantee.
“I don’t look at it as trying to replace Al because Al had a lot of unique qualities as well as talent,” President/CEO Pat Bowlen told The Denver Post. “But this kind of thing is not new to my business. If we’re lucky enough to get a player with the same unique qualities as Al, hallelujah.”
“Do you ever replace a guy like Al? I don’t know,” Lynch said. ” All that he brought to us in his play and his leadership, that’d be difficult to do, but you just trust in your organization, making the decision and having an idea of how they’re going to try to replace him.”