Injuries at outside linebacker mean Broncos will keep close eye on Von Miller

Broncos star linebacker Von Miller signs autographs after Saturday's training camp practice. AP Photo/David Zalubowski

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- It didn't take long for the ripple effect of outside linebacker injuries in the opening days of Denver Broncos training camp to reach Von Miller.

As in, don't blink during the Broncos' four preseason games because there is a good chance you'll miss Miller. What was already going to be a limited set of snaps likely just got smaller.

"Being smart with Von is going to be a priority," said Broncos coach Vance Joseph after Saturday's practice. " … John [Elway] and I discussed that [Friday] night. Von's preseason reps, maybe it's very few."

Suddenly Miller's workload in both practice and in the preseason is a significant consideration because the Broncos now have two outside linebackers -- Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett -- who will miss the preseason and most likely will miss the start of the regular season as well.

Barrett is currently on the team's non-football injury (NFI) list with a hip injury he suffered during the offseason. Ray will miss the next six to eight weeks after surgery Saturday morning to repair a torn ligament in his left wrist he suffered in Thursday's practice. Ray was the starter at outside linebacker, along with Miller, while Barrett was a key rotational player last season, playing on 36.5 percent of the defensive snaps.

With the two players not practicing, it means Miller is the only outside linebacker on the current roster who played in the Broncos' defense during the 2016 regular season.

"And we don't want to burn Von out," Joseph said.

In Saturday's practice Kasim Edebali, who signed with the Broncos in free agency earlier this year, was lined up in Ray's spot with the starters. The Broncos liked Edebali's work as a pass-rusher as a spot player in the New Orleans Saints defense.

"We signed Edebali because he was a relentless rusher in New Orleans," Joseph said. "He was signed because he's a pass-rusher; that's what those guys do for a living."

"I'm very confident," Edebali said. "With guys like Von, every day I learn more and more. … It's just kind of like a sponge, you suck certain things up and you learn more. I'm just ready to go."

He'll need to be as Edebali and Vontarrius Dora figure to get plenty of work at outside linebacker in the preseason, especially if the Broncos dial Miller back from what he played in the preseason games last summer.

Miller was held out of the Broncos' first and fourth preseason games last year. He played 10 plays against the San Francisco 49ers in the second preseason game and 29 plays against the Los Angeles Rams in the Broncos' third preseason game.

For his part, Miller has said: "I'm ready to go; I'm ready to work; I feel rejuvenated."

Saturday, the Broncos tried to add some depth as they signed Broncos signed linebacker Danny Mason, who was with the Broncos in the months leading up to the 2015 season. The Broncos also have an undrafted rookie, Ken Ekanem, at outside linebacker.