Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware are expecting to get to the quarterback a lot more often this season thanks to two veteran offseason additions to Denver’s defense: lineman Antonio Smith and coordinator Wade Phillips.
The pass-rushing duo combined for two dozen sacks in their first season together last year. They’re expecting to have a bigger impact in the offensive backfield in Phillips’ 3-4 scheme, especially if Smith can push the pocket from the inside.
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Ware’s excitement about his reunion with Ware is understandable: he collected 60-1/2 of his 127 career sacks when Phillips was his head coach in Dallas from 2007-10.
Ware said he already knows Phillips’ defense that he began installing this week and also appreciates ”how productive a lot of guys are in his defense. Everybody’s going to be able to thrive to a new level.”
The advantage of having three down linemen and four linebackers is that offenses don’t know where the fourth rusher is coming from.
”You never know who could be dropping, you never know who’s rushing,” Ware said.
In the 3-4, Ware goes from a defensive end with his hand on the ground to an outside linebacker that’s standing up, which the 32-year-old appreciates: ”It’s a lot easier on the body,” Ware said, adding it allows him to ”be more aggressive.”
Miller won’t drop back into coverage as much in the 3-4 scheme, so he’ll also get more chances to chase the QB. And he won’t have to deal with a tight end chipping him as much as he did in the 4-3, Ware noted, ”because if they want to chip, we’re going to bring other guys.”
In Smith, the Broncos added a 12th-year pro who also has a history with Phillips. Smith’s best years were in Houston with Phillips as his defensive coordinator from 2011-13.
”It’s good to have veteran guys,” Ware said. ”First of all, me being in the linebacker room and then him being in the defensive line room, both of us played with Wade and know exactly what to expect from his defense and keeping everybody on the same page.”
Miller is just as eager to get on the field with Smith and run Phillips’ defense.
”This type of defense we’re going to run I know for a fact we’re going to bring the pressure,” Miller said. ”We’re going to be able to focus on some of our talents and our strengths.”
As for Smith, ”his personality is going to fit great in our locker room,” Miller said. ”He’s a great pass-rusher from the tackle position on third downs. … Other than J.J. (Watt), I don’t think there’s any other tackle that’s able to get pressure on a quarterback the way he can inside the tackles. That’s definitely going to help me, DeMarcus and all those guys rushing from the outside.”
Smith said he’ll in turn benefit from playing between Miller and Ware.
”The best friends of a `three technique’ rush guy are ends because if they flush the quarterback up and you can beat that guard on the inside, which is probably a lesser athlete than the tackle, you all can have an excellent season,” Smith said. ”And you all can feed off each other, that type of energy and brotherhood where everybody is eating at the quarterback.”