ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In the mix-and-match approach the Denver Broncos have with their pass rush during linebacker Von Miller's suspension -- he still has five games to go -- defensive end Robert Ayers and linebacker Shaun Phillips will have plenty of heavy lifting to do.
Ayers is the starting right defensive end and will usually play in early-down situations, or against the heavier formations on passing downs like two-tight end or two-back looks. The Broncos have used Phillips as a traditional strong-side linebacker at times in practice, and he showed plenty of savvy dropping into coverage against the Ravens. But for the most part the Broncos want Phillips to be a disruptive rush end when it's time to get after the passer.
And the Broncos got a little of everything from the two in the season opener against the Ravens as Ayers finished with a sack and Phillips had 2.5 sacks to go with a forced fumble.
But neither is going to consistently beat Will Beatty with speed only, at least not without working to the inside some to keep Beatty from sitting on the move to the outside shoulder and simply waiting for the defensive end to arrive. The 6-foot-6 Beatty plays with quality quickness and is light on his feet for a 319-pounder. Many defensive coordinators believe, however, he can be knocked off his pass sets by an effective bull rush.
Beatty does have good recovery skills so will regain his footing and re-anchor if the defender doesn’t keep the pressure when he makes the power move.
Phillips showed plenty of experience when he faced Michael Oher’s replacement at right tackle last Thursday night -- Rick Wagner -- after Oher left the game with an ankle injury. Wagner, also 6-foot-6, had difficulty getting his hands on Phillips despite the reach advantage because Phillips is adept at attacking a blocker’s hands on the way in. He consistently swatted Wagner’s hands away and gained the advantage.