For many Denver Broncos, it's all about eating to win

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – When it comes to the attack-counter-attack world of the pass rush, Denver Broncos pass rushers know where with questions.

"Oh, that’s easy; me and DeMarcus Ware," outside linebacker Von Miller said.

"We want to help the young guys. They know it. We want to get to the quarterback, we want everybody to get to the quarterback. We’ll talk about anything, tell guys where I messed up or what didn’t work and tell them what worked."

And while, in addition to the Broncos coaches, Miller and Ware have spent training camp dispensing pass-rush knowledge, the two have also been quick to pass along advice that reaches well outside of the defensive huddle, including some back-in-the-day advice that has hit home for many Broncos, that they will indeed be what they eat.

The Broncos have switched from a 4-3 look on defense to Wade Phillips' 3-4. It means some players, particularly the linebackers and some defensive linemen have had to adjust their weight. Some had to be bigger, some smaller and some just needed to adjust at their current weight.

"Von is always telling me how to eat," Broncos outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett said. "In the offseason, just drinking water because that's when he got the most results when he was drinking water instead of Gatorade. Talking to Luke (Richesson), our strength coach, he is trying to get me right, and Bryan (Snyder), our (team) nutritionist, is helping me out also."

"You learn, you have to take care of yourself," Ware said. "Your body, how you move, how you maintain it, is a big part of succeeding. Sometimes when you're young you don't worry about it, but if we can help the younger guys learn it sooner, it's better for them, better for us."

The Broncos are entering their third full week of training camp Monday and the parade of players who have openly discussed changes in their diet include Miller, cornerback Chris Harris Jr. and quarterback Peyton Manning. But for a player like Barrett, the changes have been noticed by many, including the coaches. His fitness level has repeatedly been acknowledged by the Broncos throughout the offseason program and training camp.

In Fright night’s preseason opener in Seattle, Barrett had one of the team’s seven sacks and led the team with four quarterback hits.

With Ware having been held out of the game and Miller having played just seven snaps, Barrett got plenty of work with 39 defensive snaps.

“I just started eating different and having my wife meal prep for me and stuff like that to change my body shape," Barrett said. "I came here at probably 18 percent body fat (in 2014) and I have it down to around 11 right now, so I just have to keep working at that and that's probably my next step that I need to take."

For defensive end Kenny Anunike, who led the team in tackles against the Seahawks with eight to go with a sack, it has been a different process. The Broncos told Anunike he needed to get bigger to play at end in their 3-4 so he went about the business of gaining 15 pounds in the offseason.

"I went from about 260 to 275, I can definitely feel it, being a little bit heavier, but it's good weight," Anunike said. "It was lean muscle mass. I was eating a lot of lean meats and a lot of rice. I was eating six meals a day with shakes in between. I used to love eating. I stopped. I didn't like it anymore. I'm telling you right now. I was just inhaling it, but it was something I had to do. Coach Wade, (defensive line) coach (Bill) Kollar said if I was going to play in this 3-4 scheme, I needed to gain a little bit of weight."

In the end, the Broncos retooled scheme, with very little game-planning, finished with seven sacks against the Seahawks by seven different players from several different positions. Three sacks were by defensive linemen, three by outside linebackers and one by rookie safety Josh Furman.

"We want to eat greedy, get to the quarterback," Miller said. "But we have to eat right ... I tell guys all the time I just feel different when I ate better. Sometimes you can have those things that aren’t so great, but if you’re going to be great, you have to check yourself about what you eat."