The Broncos' 7UP isn't Orange Crush-worthy, but the defensive front is not just some bland soda pop and could be among the Broncos' best of all time.

In 1977 the Broncos, under brilliant defensive coordinator Joe Collier, permitted only 16 touchdowns in 14 regular-season games - and 10.6 points per game. That unbelievable defense, which I had named "Orange Crush'' - never will be approached again by the Broncos.

The Wade Phillips "No-Fly Zone'' defense gave up 296 and 297 points in 2015-16. Last year the Broncos tied for 22nd in points allowed (382 - a 23.9 average). The No-Fly is No More.

But the 2018 defense can make a name for itself because of the linebackers and the linemen, as the OTA's have been revealing.

The late '70s Broncos didn't have the silly slogans of Vance Joseph. Collier's simple goal was 17. The defense tolerated fewer than 17 points in 13 - yes! - 13 of 14 games. The Raiders scored 24 to beat them. In the other loss, the Cowboys managed 14.

Last season the Broncos, guided by rookie coordinator Joe Woods, surrendered 20 or more - including 35, 41 and, ye gads, 51 - in 12 of 16 games.

So, why will this defense offer a significant improvement? Because of additions and corrections, the draft and free agency, good health, deep depth and an offense that won't be the most offensive in the NFL.

The 3-4 seems like a 6-8 in workouts.

There is an * - Adam Gotsis. The team's starting defensive end is practicing while the district attorney in Fulton County (Atlanta), Ga., still hasn't reached a decision about sexual assault charges stemming from a 2013 incident. This case, and the league's response, could drag on until after the season.

However, Shelby Harris developed into a real keeper, and starting type, in '17 - and was second to Von Miller's 10 sacks with 5.5. And last year's No. 2 pick, DeMarcus Walker, has returned to his natural position (defensive end) and weight (280) after being badly miscast by the coaching staff. It's forgotten that Walker was a player.

Derek Wolfe, who struggled with injuries, is healthy and mean, and Domata Uluaifaasau Peko is a true professional. If Kyle Peko could emulate his cousin, the Broncos would have a princely pair of Pekos (625 pounds) at nose tackle.

Zach Kerr is an adequate and versatile veteran backup, and Clinton McDonald, in his ninth year in the league, looks like a quality third-down pass rush specialist. Now, if he can play like one.

Ah, then the linebacking corps.

The sum of four starters is not No. 1 in the league or Broncos' history. The Seahawks, the Panthers and the Jaguars should be ranked higher now, and the quartet of Randy Gradishar, Tom Jackson, Bob Swenson (all three Pro Bowlers) and Joe Rizzo topped the Denver list, as a unit, from 1976-80.

But the edge group of Von Miller (second overall), Bradley Chubb (fifth), Shane Ray (23) and Shaq Barrett (free agent) is unsurpassed in the business, and this year's rookie free agent Jeff Holland was second in sacks (10) in the SEC and all-conference, and was selected a first-team all-American by Sports Illustrated.

When I talked to the soft-spoken Holland at practice the other day, he certainly was mystified and miffed he hadn't been drafted - the Auburn linebacker had a reputation/rap of not going full-bore too much of the time - but was thrilled to be with the linebacker-rich Broncos. He is destined for the practice squad, though.

Ray will be playing his final season and his rear off. Barrett missed the last offseason and camp, but ended up as a starter on the other side from Miller and was graded at 82.5 by Pro Football Focus.

Inside linebackers Brandon Marshall and Todd Davis were one-two in tackles last season and solid, albeit not spectacular. Davis will depart on third downs, and Su'a Cravens, acquired from Washington, should slip into that former T.J. Ward safety-linebacker role.

And The Human Tackle Machine, fourth-round pick Josey Jewell, will be brought into the rotation before midseason. Zaire Anderson always shines in exhibitions. He needs to do it in the real games.

The two areas are the Broncos' strength and soul. What will the Broncos get if they mix 7UP and Orange Crush?

Defense. With fizz.

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