ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Headed into his 10th NFL season, Broncos linebacker
And after Wednesday’s practice, Phillips pointed out that bouts with adversity can ultimately strengthen a team’s determination – an approach that he says the Broncos defense will adopt in preparing for playing without Miller for the first six games of the regular season.
“Pressure can either break you or pressure can make diamonds,” Phillips said. “We’re going to continue with the philosophy that pressure is going to make diamonds for us. We’ll be quite alright.”
While Phillips acknowledged that losing the 2012 runner-up for NFL Defensive Player of the Year is a blow, he was quick to point out that defense is ultimately a team concept requiring the cohesion of 11 players, not just the standout performance of one.
“We’ll be OK. It’s not just about the sacks,” Phillips said. “It’s about the coverage and it’s about the sacks. It’s about stopping the run, because we all know you can’t get sacks without stopping the run. Right now our philosophy is if we stop the run, the sacks are going to come.”
Phillips – who has 69.5 career sacks, including 9.5 a season ago with San Diego – noted that Miller’s absence won’t place a heavier burden on the backs of the defense, nor will it impact Phillips’ own approach to games.
“We don’t have to do more because Von’s not here,” he said. “We just have to do what we do. Me, personally, I’ve been playing football for 10 years. I think I’ve been successful without Von so far.”
Phillips was quick to add, however, that Miller’s presence on the field is undeniable.
“It’s a bonus to have a guy like that on the field because he’s an amazing player,” he said. “But you live, you learn. He’s going to get better from it and we’re going to get better from it.”
“We have some good pass-rushers still,” Trevathan said. “We still have Shaun Phillips, he’s a great guy. We still have linebackers blitzing, we still have to put pressure on them but we’re not really concerned with that. We’re going to stick within our scheme and try to make plays within our scheme.”
Phillips, who was acquired in large part for his pass-rush expertise, said that he’s comfortable with lining up as a down lineman at defensive end or as a stand-up linebacker – in either case, he’s only concerned with making contributions.
“It doesn’t matter to me. Football is football,” he said. “Again, I said it earlier: football is about tackling the man with the football. Whether I’m standing up in the two-point (stance) or I’ve got my hand in the three-point (stance), go hit the guy with the football.”
Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio noted that the Broncos will also look for a push from their interior defensive linemen.
“We got some good size in there, some good athleticism and we’re looking for push in there from our big guys,” Del Rio said. “We’ve had a good camp. A lot of good work going in and we’ll see as we go forward.”
Ultimately, with or without Miller, success on defense will require 11 players performing their schematic responsibilities and achieving cohesion as a unit.
And, Phillips noted, that’s precisely what the Broncos will look to do.
“It’s about us collectively coming together as a team,” Phillips said. “What you do is you take adversity and you turn it to a positive. That’s our mindset and that’s what we’re going to do.”