ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – ** Second-year defensive tackle Sylvester Williams doesn't feel safe on top of the depth chart.
Breathing down his neck are Kevin Vickerson, Mitch Unrein, Marvin Austin and a few other talented linemen. He isn't alone in his unwillingness to be satisfied with his name on top of the list.
The depth of the defensive line prevents its members from feeling safe on top of the depth chart or on the team. It's competitive, so it's pushing the linemen to improve quickly and push themselves.
"We've got a great group of guys," Williams said. "You definitely see guys out there competing every day to make the team. We've got guys competing out there and it's better for the team, it's better for us as well because it's going to bring out the best out of us. We know that we can't go out there and slack off any day."
Vickerson said he can't remember a time when the line had this much depth. He compared this line to the 2010 line with Ryan McBean, Marcus Thomas and Ronald Fields. He said the team was deep at defensive tackle then, just as the team is now.
Take a look at photos from Day 13 of training camp.
The defensive linemen, especially the defensive tackles, have been shuffling around the line. This adds to the strength of the line as they can move around. On Wednesday, the linemen who spoke to the media echoed similar sentiments that they all have a better understanding of what it takes to be successful.
The defensive line's two-deep consists of players with at least one year of experience under their belt. Kenny Anunike, Chase Vaughn and Greg Latta are the rookies fighting for spots. Williams said that even though Thursday is a preseason game, there is a lot that the team and coaches can learn from it.
"You can also see what type of depth you have on the defense and offensive side of the ball," Williams said. "Everybody's not going to get a lot of reps and they're going to try to roll in as many people as they can. It's a good opportunity to see how you look in backups and second team groups too."
Head Coach John Fox said he doesn't plan on playing the first team past the first quarter on Thursday night, so the defensive line's depth will truly be tested as those fighting for spots on the 53-man roster will have a chance to show how they've developed during camp.
Defensive end Malik Jackson said the depth is one component of the line's strength, but that how comfortable the linemates are in their roles and with each other is also an advantage.
"It's me and Derek Wolfe's third year going into it. T-Knight's (defensive tackle Terrance Knighton) been there forever," Jackson said. "So I think as a defense, everybody's going in there for their third year and everybody's feeling comfortable and I think that's the biggest thing I can see. Depth helps a lot, but I think we're just more comfortable, period."
Knighton started every game last season and will be joined by Williams, last year's first round draft pick, or Vickerson. Vickerson is a league veteran whose 2013 season ended early due to a hip injury. But, based on his performance so far in camp, he looks to be back in form. Derek Wolfe, who also incurred a season-ending injury last year, has found his way to the top of the depth chart.
The line is a mishmash of veterans and newcomers, and it is filled with versatile, athletic athletes who are ready to prove themselves on Thursday night.
"At the end of the day, everybody knows their job," Vickerson said. "At the end of the day everybody knows what their responsibilities are and where they're supposed to be at on each call. With everybody doing their job and playing fast and physical and violent and doing the things on this side of the defense, I think that's where we get our cohesiveness."