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Vickerson, Knighton Create 'Stout' Interior

Posted Mar 13, 2013

A look at how defensive tackles Kevin Vickerson and Terrance Knighton could clog up the middle of the defensive line -- and get after the passer.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Terrance Knighton and Kevin Vickerson entered the media room at Broncos headquarters a little more than four hours apart Wednesday. But their paths had already crossed.

"Yeah, he was around for a little bit, kind of doing his little recruiting thing," Knighton said.

Vickerson solid Knighton on Denver -- "the city, the fans, the atmosphere on Sundays," Knighton said. Vickerson could have also sold the opportunity to play alongside himself, and if the Broncos get what they want, they'll have 665 pounds' worth of humanity clogging gaps, breaking down pockets from the inside and generally dismantling blocking schemes from the inside out.

Ideally, you won't be able to mention one without the other, and they ought to mesh nicely with Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio's fondness for massive defensive tackles who can play off each other and even rotate responsibilities.

"Jack used the word 'stout.' He needs stout. He wants us to be stout. Stout," Vickerson said. "Stout in the inside. No movement. Penetrating tackles, dancing bears. Guys that can move."

Knighton said he plans to watch film of Vickerson to learn what he does -- and then adapt his play accordingly.

"I think the roles will be similar. Be stout against the run, push the line of scrimmage back and collapse the pocket against the pass," Knighton said.

"I'm not quite sure how they’re going to do it yet. (Vickerson) can play left and right; I can play left and right. He can play nose and three-(technique); I can do both also. It’ll be fun once we get to learn each other’s style and what we’re comfortable with and (become) familiar with one another."

Vickerson was more often the nose tackle last year, but has shown ample versatility in recent years, beginning when he was a 3-4 defensive end in 2010, his first season with the Broncos. The next year, the Broncos converted to a 4-3 and Dennis Allen arrived as defensive coordinator, asking him to slim down to 280 pounds.

Then Allen left, Del Rio arrived, and got Vickerson to bulk up to nearly 330 pounds. Like an A-list actor who will go to any method -- or Method -- to play a role, Vickerson packed on the weight.

Now, Vickerson doesn't have to change a thing -- and Knighton, through his film study, plans to adjust to him.

"I'm comfortable," Vickerson said. "I'm eating my burgers. I'm Big Vick. I ain't changing, man. So that's the thing. My wife was looking at my stomach, so it's all good."

What will be worth watching is how the Broncos rotate their defensive tackles -- and who plays on pass-rushing downs. Knighton has the raw tools to be an effective pass rusher, and according to Pro Football Focus, he finished 11th among 4-3 defensive tackles last year with seven quarterback hits, one more than he had in the previous three seasons. But Vickerson is also capable in the pass rush; he had seven quarterback hits in 2009 and 2010, and had four last year, even though his pass-rushing repetitions were limited.

If Derek Wolfe continues to move inside to a three-technique role on pass-rushing downs, then the Broncos could have the potential for their most explosive interior pass-rushing tandem in years -- especially if Knighton and Vickerson rotate on pass-rush downs, keeping each other fresh for their tag-team work in the base package.