Broncos’ defense has been stout despite rash of injuries
DENVER — Von Miller made his preseason cameo count when he dumped Aaron Rodgers for an 11-yard sack and unveiled the “Sexy T-Rex,” a dance he figures everyone can do at home — just tuck your elbows to your sides and sway your shoulders.
“He had two third-down rushes and one sack,” coach Vance Joseph offered after Denver’s 20-17 win over Green Bay.
“So, it was pretty special.”
So was Denver’s front-line defense this preseason.
Even with several starters sidelined, the first unit allowed just one touchdown — on a 2-yard drive by the Packers on Saturday night — and one field goal, a 52-yarder following Miller’s sack of Rodgers.
“Our defense, we’re playing at a high tempo, a high level right now,” cornerback Aqib Talib said. “So, I think we’re ready to go.”
NFL teams will rest their starters and key backups in the preseason finales this week even more than usual now that the league has eliminated the first cut-down to 75 players. So, the weekend’s slate of games was essentially the final tuneup for the regular season.
Even before general manager John Elway set out on another fix-it job for his offensive line and battered backfield in the offseason, he said the first thing on his to-do list was making sure his defense stayed dominant.
The Broncos lost DeMarcus Ware to retirement and then watched one defender after another get hurt: Shaquil Barrett (hip), Shane Ray (wrist), Derek Wolfe (ankle), Jared Crick (back), T.J. Ward (hamstring) and, on Saturday night, Zack Kerr (knee) and Will Parks (hip pointer).
Kerr and Parks were in for more medical tests Sunday, as was backup QB Paxton Lynch, who bruised his throwing shoulder on a scramble.
While much was made of the venom Elway injected into his new offensive line this offseason, it was his defense that showed the some fire Saturday night when Talib and linebacker Todd Davis got into a scuffle.
Talib was trying to keep Davis from drawing a flag for jawing with the Packers, and he shoved him in the chest. Davis took off his helmet and shoved it in Talib’s chest.
They made up quickly, but Davis argued that passion is propane for this defense.
“You don’t want to fight with your teammates but we are a family. Sometimes families fight,” Davis said. “We thrive off of our passion. We are going to come after you. If we are able to fuss and fight with our brothers, just imagine what you are going to get from us.”
TURNING HEADS: With so many defenders ailing, third-year defensive end Shelby Harris has capitalized on his playing time, getting two takeaways in San Francisco last week and collecting a trio of sacks against the Packers.
“He’s been great,” Miller said. “Shelby’s definitely going to help us, especially at a spot where we’re light.”
CHARLES DEBUT : Among the most excited over running back Jamaal Charles’ successful Denver debut was quarterback Trevor Siemian, who was saved from a big hit when Charles picked up a defender who blew by guard Max Garcia.
“That’s the benefit of having a veteran running back,” Siemian said. “He understands protections and can help you out quite a bit back there.”
Charles also gained 27 yards on four carries and caught a couple of passes.
“It’s exciting to see him at practice but the game is a whole different animal,” Siemian said. “Watching him play really well in live ball is really cool for all of us to see.”