ENGLEWOOD, Colo. –There has been a lot of attention paid to the Broncos' defensive line as it is faced with the tall order of replacing Elvis Dumervil and his 11 sacks from 2012.
Robert Ayers, a fifth-year defensive end out of Tennessee, expects to fill Dumervil's spot on the line and he's hoping to replicate his production as well.
"I love Elvis like a brother, I learned a lot from him but it is what it is and unfortunately the next man has to step up and I plan on being that next man," Ayers said after the first day of training camp. "And I don't want to be the guy that anyone says there was a (drop) off from where Elvis left. I want to step into his shoes and I want to do good things this year.
"I'm very fortunate that things played out the way that they did for me to get the opportunity that I have and I plan on capitalizing on it."
Ayers was drafted in 2009 as an outside linebacker in the team's 3-4 scheme. Prior to the 2011 season, Ayers moved to defensive end in the 4-3 scheme that the team runs now.
"I think (the) move and me gaining more confidence allowed them to be more comfortable with Elvis unfortunately leaving."
The production burden doesn't fall solely on Ayers, however. The Broncos have fairly young group of defensive ends to help pick up the slack.
Rookie Quanterus Smith is back to practicing after recovering from a knee injury that he suffered during his senior year of college. Jeremy Beal is also healthy and ready to make a contribution after an injury ended his 2012 campaign during last year's training camp. To round out the talented young group, second-year man Derek Wolfe is primed for a big year after posting six sacks last season.
The Broncos also added 10-year veteran Shaun Phillips to the linebacking corps to help the pass rush. So far in training camp, he's been hungry for improvement.
After Saturday's practice, Phillips apologized to the fans via Twitter for what he called not his best practice.
"I'm not displeased, but I'm not pleased because we're not where we need to be," Phillips said. " We will get there and we're working to get there, but we can't be at our best right now.
"We're going to continue to try to get better and get to the point where everyone's pleased, everyone's satisfied, and everyone's happy."