ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- If there is a do-the-dirty-work, get-no-endorsement-love position in the NFL, nose tackle might be it.
Or, as former long-time Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Joe Collier put it; “You’re basically asking someone to eat up all the blockers so somebody else can make the play."
But in a preseason quirk that's unlikely to carry over to the regular season, one the current sack leaders for the sack-happy Broncos is rookie nose tackle Darius Kilgo.
Kilgo had two sacks in the Broncos’ 14-10 preseason win in Houston on Saturday night and is tied with linebacker Shaquil Barrett with two preseason sacks.
Overall the Broncos have a league-leading 12 sacks in their two preseason games, with 11 players having had at least a half sack, but DeMarcus Ware isn’t one of them. And Von Miller has just one in limited duty so far, a strip-sack on Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson in the preseason opener.
Asked Monday if the team's nose tackles -- Kilgo or Sylvester Williams -- have reminded the Broncos’ more accomplished pass rushers of their sack prowess, Williams said;
“We try to stay away from messing with those two guys," said Williams with a smile. “We know when the regular season comes where the shining is going to come from, so we just take out shine where we can."
When the Broncos made the change in coaching staffs and implemented a 3-4 defense, it meant they were on the hunt for somebody to play the nose tackle. Terrance Knighton would have been a natural for the job, but Knighton did not receive much interest from the Broncos in free agency, so he signed with the Washington Redskins.
Both defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and coach Gary Kubiak believed Williams was a fit, and he has been, but the Broncos need two players at the high-impact, heavy-lifting position. Marvin Austin Jr. had been Williams’ backup in the offseason program, but was derailed by injuries and is now on injured reserve with a groin injury. The Broncos are expected to reach an injury settlement with Austin which would make him a free agent.
That has left Kilgo, a sixth-round pick in this past April’s draft, with an opportunity which he has taken full advantage of. However, having been a nose tackle at Maryland, Kilgo might have the Broncos player who actually had the most experience playing the position in a 3-4 defense.
“I think he's been showing a lot of progress," Williams said. “Really since day one, since I’ve first seen him play to now, I think he's shown a lot of growth. He's a strong guy -- perfect for the nose tackle position. The thing about Kilgo is that he's a hard worker and he gives 100 percent to get better every day. Every day I see something different that helps him improve as a player.”
“I’m just trying to work as hard as I can," Kilgo said. “I want to learn and work ... help this team."
If Kilgo remains in the rotation, he will be among a handful in the Broncos' most recent draft class poised for significant playing time. Ty Sambrailo (second round) is starting at left tackle and Max Garcia (fourth round) is starting at left guard while Shane Ray (first round) will be a situational player in the defense. Tight end Jeff Heuerman (third round), who will be moved to injured reserve (knee) when the Broncos make their roster cuts, had been tabbed for a role in the offense before his injury.