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Broncos' changes up front paying dividends vs. the run

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Posted Sept. 21, 2012 @ 4:22 p.m. ET
By Kevin Fishbain

Heading into the 2012 season, defensive tackle was a question mark for the Broncos with new faces coming in, a big concern considering how poor Denver’s defense fared against the run last season. The Broncos kept opponents under 100 yards rushing only four times last season, and gave up at least 159 rushing yards five times.

The interior D-line took a hit when Ty Warren, who was expected to be key, re-tore his triceps in Week One, but the depth that Denver has built up front has been a big bright spot, as the run defense looks vastly improved.

In two games against perennial running teams, the Steelers and Falcons, the Broncos have given up a combined 142 yards rushing on 54 carries, good for a 2.6-yard rushing average. The way we hear it, a lot of credit goes to DT Kevin Vickerson, who put on weight in the offseason to get up to 330 pounds. Rookie Derek Wolfe has been a mainstay up front, and he leads D-linemen in playing time. Veteran newcomer DT Justin Bannan has also filled in nicely.

DT Mitch Unrein, an unknown, unsung player, has stepped in to help fill Warren’s void. He saw 41 percent of snaps in Week Two. The second-year player, who had a strong camp, we’re told, is helping plug holes in the middle, allowing for LBs Joe Mays and Wesley Woodyard to make plays. LB Von Miller, who leads the team with six tackles for loss, has also made a concerted effort to be better against the run, which keeps him on the field as a three-down linebacker.

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