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Monday, September 2, 2013
Broncos practice report: A variety pack

By Jeff Legwold

No Von Miller. No Elvis Dumervil. The Broncos know their two top pass-rushers from a year ago, from 2011 too for that matter, won't be in the lineup Thursday night.

Dumervil will be across the field, in a Ravens uniform, having departed Denver after a messy fax machine fiasco that caused the Broncos to release him to avoid paying him a pile of guaranteed money ($12 million). For his part Miller will be serving the first of a six-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.

That's a combined 29.5 sacks from last season. They face a quarterback -- Joe Flacco -- the Broncos sacked just once in last January's playoff loss even with both Miller and Dumervil in the lineup.

"There were times when we'd say 'OK, Von will get there'," said Broncos defensive tackle Derek Wolfe. "Now, all of us have to get there."

And to do that the Broncos will have use a little more variety in how they go about things. Last season they made the transition from run downs to passing downs with three constants in the rush packages when it was time to get after the quarterback -- Dumervil, Miller and Wolfe.

Dumervil played 922 snaps last season, Miller 961 and Wolfe came in at 903.

Take that kind of playing time out of the mix and the Broncos will use people more situationally. Wolfe will still be a constant, but Shaun Phillips, Robert Ayers and Malik Jackson will be used in a variety of ways up front. To make it all work Phillips has to be what he was with his 9.5 sacks last season and perhaps even a little more. Ayers, who has just 6.5 career sacks, has to have the breakout season he's been waiting to have.

The Broncos figure to get linebacker Wesley Woodyard, five sacks in 2012, into the mix as well given Woodyard, too, is an every-down stalwart in the defense.

"We have to win on first and second down so we can get after it on third down," Wolfe said. " … Just like every game."