DENVER (AP) — The Denver Broncos are feeling really good about their pass rush and more than a little nervous about their run defense.
Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil combined for 3 1/2 sacks in the Broncos’ 23-20 win over the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday night, but the Broncos lost their best tackler in weakside linebacker D.J. Williams and another defensive tackle when Brodrick Bunkley was cut-blocked by guard Robert Gallery.
Williams has a dislocated right elbow that could sideline him up to a month, although he tweeted Sunday that he’ll “b back n no time” because he’s a fast healer.
“I’m a supreme being so the recovery is cut in half,” he wrote.
The versatile Williams has led the Broncos in tackles in three of the last four seasons, and his teammates said they expect him to work on getting back as hard as he works on the football field.
“It’s unfortunate because he’s one of our leaders,” Champ Bailey said. “But you’ve got to just keep on ticking and he knows that. He’s going to do whatever he can to get back as soon as possible. He’s got to make sure he takes care of himself.”
Williams left the stadium after the game in a sling with his right arm heavily taped from his wrist to his biceps.
Bunkley, who said he wasn’t seriously injured, declined to call out Gallery for a cheap shot.
“It’s the game, man,” Bunkley said. “We’re in the trenches, and things like that are going to happen. I’m not going to say anything is dirty. That’s just the way the game is played.”
Safety Brian Dawkins said he hopes to get both Williams and Bunkley back by the Sept. 12 season opener.
“There’s a next-man-up mentality but you definitely miss those guys when they go down,” he said.
The Broncos already are paper thin at defensive tackle with Ty Warren recovering form triceps surgery that will sideline him at least until November and Marcus Thomas out until mid- to late-September with a torn chest muscle.
“We don’t need any more injuries, but this is the game of football,” Bailey said. “It happens and that’s when guys got to step up.”
The Broncos are down to Ryan McBean at nose tackle and Kevin Vickerson, a converted defensive end, leading a group of tackles that include rookies Mitch Unrein, Ronnell Brown and DeMario Pressley.
By virtue of their 4-12 record last season, the Broncos own the second waiver wire claim and they are sure to be scouring other teams’ cuts as rosters are trimmed to 80 by Tuesday and then to 53 with the final cuts coming after Thursday’s slate of preseason finales.
Despite the injury bug, the Broncos are feeling good about their defense under new coach John Fox and coordinator Dennis Allen, and the cornerstones are Dumervil, who led the league with 17 sacks in 2009, and Miller, the second overall selection in the draft who collected 27 1/2 sacks in his last two seasons a Texas A&M.
“Obviously we thought a lot of Von Miller to draft him in that spot and getting Elvis back is huge, both in the locker room as well as on the field,” Fox said. “So, they’re a pretty good little tandem.”
With Dumervil back after missing all of last season with a torn chest muscle and Miller on board after the Broncos made him their highest selection ever, Denver is expecting a dramatic turnaround from last season when its dismal defense ranked last in the league in several major categories.
Dumervil picked up his first 1 1/2 sacks of the preseason and would have had more had Miller not beaten him to quarterback Tarvaris Jackson for his second and third sacks so far.
“I know, he’s beating me there!” said Dumervil. “No, he’s doing a great job and he’s making the whole defense better. Having a guy like that on the other side has been tremendous for us.”
Bailey said he’s never had the pleasure of working with this good of a pass rush during his career, which includes 10 trips to the Pro Bowl, a record for a cornerback.
“It’s preseason, you don’t want to get all crazy about it,” Bailey said. “But I like what I see.”
Jackson didn’t like the “Orange Rush” he saw converging on him.
“Those guys did a great job,” Jackson said. “They came off the ball and were ready. They are some talented guys on the edge, and that’s what they do. They’re very good at rushing the passer.”
And that ruined the Seahawks’ game plan of establishing the run.
“We were just trying to get them in the run game, beat up on them a little bit in the run game,” Jackson said, “but when we got behind the sticks a little bit we had to pass the ball some more.”
So, Jackson ended up getting sandwiched some more.
“The inability to protect the quarterback was so clear in the first half that it just disrupted everything,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll lamented. “… They really just ran through us pretty much.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)