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Garett Bolles, Menelik Watson ready for AFC West's pass-rush 'monsters'


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --For offensive tackles Menelik Watson and Garett Bolles, a battle against Chargers edge rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram on Monday night is just the beginning.

The challenge posed by AFC West pass rushers is so steep that what Watson and Bolles will face this year is like a hike through the Himalayas.

Bosa and Ingram in Los Angeles. Dee Ford and Justin Houston in Kansas City. Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin in Oakland. And of course, there's the pair that Watson and Bolles saw in practice: Von Miller and Shane Ray, with Shaquil Barrett filling in for Ray for the first six games of the regular season.

As Watson sees it, the AFC West has the best collection of edge rushers in the NFL.

"Hands down, and I'll say that openly," he said. "Every single team has two monsters off the edge, and you need to account for those guys. You need to know where those guys are at all times."

The numbers back up Watson's assertion. The AFC West is the only division in the NFL that returns seven edge defenders -- 3-4 outside linebackers or 4-3 defensive ends -- who posted at least seven sacks last year.

That group of seven doesn't even include Houston, who had four sacks in five games last year and added a pair of sacks Thursday night in the Chiefs' season-opening win at New England.

That's why the Broncos invested a first-round pick in Bolles and signed Watson within the first 30 hours of the start of free agency. Both are athletic tackles with quick feet honed from backgrounds in other sports (basketball for Watson, lacrosse for Bolles) who possess plenty of untapped upside.

With three division rivals that possess a pair of athletic speed rushers, the Broncos needed to develop a proper counter to what they will deal with now and for the foreseeable future in division play.

"Obviously, having two speed rushers is always an issue because you can't help both tackles all the time. You can help one, but you can't help two," Head Coach Vance Joseph said.

"In our division alone, every team has two. Obviously, acquiring tackles for us was important. But, we have to block speed rushers six times this year. Two on each team, so that's six times this year. That's critical for us."

It's also critical that Bolles and Watson steeled themselves for the weekly challenge that looms by going against Miller in one-on-one drills each day.

"Ingram's a great player, he's a veteran, very similar to Von, but Von's the best of the best and I got to see him in practice," Bolles said. "Bosa is a heck of a football player. Both of them, I'm excited to go against them cause they're going to make me better.

"... But I feel like I'm ready. I've been going against Von and Shane Ray in OTAs then we have Shaq back, so I have the best defense in the whole National Football League right here in my locker [room] at this great facility. I'm going to be ready because I go against them every day."

And it's key to not think about the name or the reputation of the player on the other side of the line of scrimmage. Instead, the focus has to be on the matchup and the preparation for an opponent's scheme and tactics.

"Football is like boxing. Every offensive lineman has a fight, and the plan is to win way more than you lose," Watson said.

"You just want to be prepared. You pay attention to scheme more than players, because a guy is going to do what he does, he's going to play the way he plays, but the scheme is probably the most important thing you've got to pay attention to, because when you know where you're going to be, it makes the game a lot easier."

Even when you're facing a pack of monsters.

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