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Training Camp Primer: Defensive Line

Posted Jul 22, 2010

In the weeks leading up to training camp, DenverBroncos.com will take you inside the roster, position-by-position. The sixth installment in the eight-part series focuses on the defensive line.

Editor's Note: In the weeks leading up to training camp, DenverBroncos.com will take you inside the roster, position-by-position. The sixth installment in the eight-part series focuses on the defensive line.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In the first week of free agency, the team signed three defensive linemen as unrestricted free agents -- Justin Bannan, Jarvis Green and Jamal Williams -- and re-signed another -- Le Kevin Smith.

The dedication to "getting bigger" along the front line was apparent.

With the start of training camp a little over a week away, players are excited for the effect the newcomers can have on the rest of the defense.

"Those guys up front, when they're doing what they do, stopping the run, allowing us in the secondary to just help out where needed, that allows us to just make so many more plays defensively in the secondary," Brian Dawkins said. "We can guess things, we can jump things because they're stopping the run up front. With the beef that we brought in and those guys, with the dog mentality that they play with up front, I think that's going to add a lot to what we do defensively."

Bannan, Green and Williams have a combined 28 years of NFL experience under their belts.

Between them they have accumulated to 991 tackles, 46.5 sacks, 29 passes defensed, 15 forced fumbles, 10 fumble recoveries, two interceptions, three Pro Bowls and two Super Bowl wins.

And with that experience -- 382 regular-season games worth -- comes an attitude. A "dog mentality," as Dawkins put it.

"When I talk to them, you can hear the excitement in their voice," the safety explained. "Then I've been privy to see them play on the football field, and you can tell that they play with that attitude. That if the run gets past them, they get an attitude with that, because they feel like they need to make those plays up front. That's what you want as a defense."

But the defensive line doesn't just begin and end with the three new additions.

Ronald Fields and Marcus Thomas both played in all 16 games last season -- Fields started every contest -- Ryan McBean started 14 games and Smith saw time in 13 matchups. Not one of them is older than 28.

"We added some experienced players in free agency, but we have a bunch of 26- and 27-year-olds that have played a lot of football behind them," Head Coach Josh McDaniels said.

The rest of the youth movement includes second-year lineman Chris Baker, who McDaniels said the team has "high expectations for in terms of coming on and improving this year to improve our depth," and college free agents Ben Garland and Jeff Stehle.

That blend of youth and experience is common throughout the defense, a trait that has Williams chomping at the bit to get the season started.

"You've got some great linebackers behind us and an experienced secondary," Williams said. "So all the pieces are coming along."

MEET THE LINEMEN:
  • Chris Baker: The only college free agent to make the Broncos' active roster out of training camp in 2009 made his NFL debut on Monday Night Football against Pittsburgh.
  • Justin Bannan: Played 58 games for a Baltimore defense over the past four seasons that ranked first in the league in yards per carry, second in rushing yards and second in total yards allowed.
  • Ronald Fields: Started all 16 games for the first time in his career in 2009, ranking second in tackles among defensive linemen.
  • Ben Garland: Totaled 115 tackles, 11.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and two blocked kicks in his career at the Air Force Academy.
  • Jarvis Green: Green, who is one of only four players in the NFL to play at least 13 games in each of the last eight years while primarily playing defensive end, has contributed to 102 wins during his NFL career, including victories in Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX.
  • Ryan McBean: The former fourth-round pick emerged as a full-time starter for the first time in his career in 2009, registering 25 tackles.
  • Le Kevin Smith: The fifth-year lineman has appeared in at least 13 games during each of the last three years, making his first two career starts and notching his first career sack in 2009.
  • Jeff Stehle: Received the UW Jay Seiler Coaches' Appreciation Award for his work on defense as a senior at Wisconsin, when he notched three sacks, 19 tackles and four tackles for a loss.
  • Marcus Thomas: Has played every game during his first three seasons, joining Rubin Carter as one of two interior defensive linemen to accomplish that feat. He blocked the first extra point by a Bronco in five seasons in 2009.
  • Jamal Williams: The three-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time first-team All-Pro was named the San Diego Chargers' co-MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and Lineman of the Year after playing in all 16 games -- including 15 starts -- in 2008.

TRAINING CAMP PRIMERS:
Quarterbacks
Defensive Backs
Running Backs/Fullbacks
Linebackers
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

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