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Broncos' D-linemen adjust to new roles on 3-4 line

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --With a new coordinator, a new position coach, a new scheme and new roles, little is is the same for the Broncos' defensive line.

But despite learning Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme and absorbing teachings from long-time defensive-line guru Bill Kollar, the adjustment isn't as comprehensive as one might expect.

"Last year we played a two-gap scheme. This year we're more of a penetrating defense," noted Sylvester Williams, who downplayed the schematic changes.

"Really, it's all the same," said. "You've got to go out there and play football. It's pretty much all the same, really, just different terminology."

And while the defense should attack more, that won't necessarily come from an increase in blitzes to supplement the defensive line and edge rushers.

"I feel like we blitzed a lot last year, but that was just me playing the defense," defensive end Malik Jackson said. "I think we're going to have a lot more guys rushing off the edge, but as far as blitzing, I don't think so. If you can rush, [Phillips] is going to rush you; if you can drop back (into coverage), he's going to let you drop back."

At this point, the Broncos are mixing and matching and learning about potential combinations among Williams, Jackson, Derek Wolfe, Marvin Austin and newcomers Vance Walker and Antonio Smith.

"Right now, we're really just playing all over. I've been playing the nose and end spot, really both spots," Williams said. "They're kind of moving us all around right now and seeing where we all fit in."

Still, the 320-pound Williams is most likely to end up at nose tackle, which represents a change from his role as a three-technique defensive tackle last year.

"You just get different blocks," Williams said. "In the nose, you might get more double-teams than you do single blocks. In the three-technique, you've got a little bit more freedom."

For Wolfe, his role as a 5-technique defensive end represents a better fit than the one he had in the Broncos' previous 4-3 alignment where he moved between end and tackle depending on the personnel grouping, down and distance.

"I think (it's) the length and the size combination," Wolfe said. "I'm not really a speed rusher; I'm not really a big 330-pound defensive tackle, either. I'm kind of a 'tweener, and that's really what you need in the 3-4."

When the Broncos selected Wolfe in the 2012 draft, he wasn't expecting their call. He figured he'd land on a team that used the 3-4 alignment.

"Really, that's where I thought I was going to end up -- on a 3-4 team," Wolfe said. "It's nice to be in my natural position."

And in working with Kollar, Wolfe has a position coach that some NFL contemporaries felt was a perfect fit for him.

"A couple of different guys around the league mentioned him to me, saying he was the perfect coach for me," Wolfe said. "I'm pretty excited about having him here.

Added Jackson: "You've got to have a great work ethic. If you don't have a great work ethic, or you're not willing to learn and go out there and produce, then you're not going to play for him."

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