ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil were more than just teammates the last two years; as Miller noted, "We were brothers off the field."
They were so close that they communicated every day between the fax faux pas that led to Dumervil's release and his decision to sign with Baltimore. Miller even went to Dumervil's Miami home upon returning from a USO trip to Afghanistan to talk with his teammate.
When Dumervil left, it seemed that no Bronco would feel Dumervil's loss like Miller. Without a Pro Bowl pass rusher on the opposite side, Miller will be an even tighter focal point of foes' blocking schemes. Yet Miller isn't concerned at all.
"I feel like we have a way better team than we had last year," he said.
Some of that is due to the additions around the roster, starting with wide receiver Wes Welker. Another reason is the continuity in the defensive scheme with Jack Del Rio returning as defensive coordinator; he's the first in that position to return for another Broncos season since Larry Coyer, who ran the defense from 2003-06 before the carousel started spinning.
But Miller's confidence also stems from the April 27 addition of Shaun Phillips. Like Dumervil, Phillips has advised Miller, with a friendship dating back to before the Broncos drafted him in 2011.
Their relationship took root because both are represented by the same agency, Athletes First.
"He just had a lot of wisdom to give me before I had even stepped on the field, before I had even met Elvis," Miller said.
"(With) some of the wisdom he can give me -- third downs, nickel situations, he can get after the passer, too, and from a number of different positions -- I'm pretty excited about our defense."
Phillips' arrival also means that the Broncos don't have to reflexively line up Miller at right defensive end against an opposing left tackle when they go into pass-rush mode with nickel or dime packages behind them.
"He's played on the left side, he's played on the right side. I don't think it's just be a right or left thing for me and him," Miller said. "It wasn't just a right and left thing for me and Elvis."
And because both Miller and Phillips can work at linebacker, they can move around to the inside, where they can supplement the surge from an overhauled defensive tackle complement. Free-agent pickup Terrance Knighton will help against the run, while first-round pick Sylvester Williams is expected to boost the interior pass rush, having posted six sacks and 25 pressures at North Carolina last year.
"I think we have one of the best interior defensive lines in the game right now. And we haven't even stepped foot on the football field; we've still got a long way to go," Miller said.
But it will take all of them -- Williams, Knighton, Phillips, Derek Wolfe, Robert Ayers, Kevin Vickerson and others, including Miller himself -- to replace 11 sacks and six forced fumbles.
"There's no way you can replace what Elvis did for us production-wise," Miller said. "But I feel like if we all take a percentage of what we did -- so, if I step my game up 5 percent, Derek Wolfe steps his game up 5 percent, everybody just takes a little piece of what him leaving has taken from us -- I think we can definitely get it done."
But replacing Dumervil's leadership will be a different matter. While Miller believes that there is enough leadership in the locker room to replace him, he acknowledges that he can't be the same kind of mentor for younger front-seven players -- particularly the just-drafted Quanterus Smith -- that Dumervil was for him.
"I'll do everything I possibly can to make it easy for him and the same stuff that Elvis showed me," Miller said. "But Elvis, he's such a technician. There's no way you could be his size and at the level that he played without being a technician. And that's what he showed me on the field.
"I don't think I can do that for another guy because I'm a technician when it comes to certain stuff, but not like Elvis. I mean, Elvis is a technician; he's a one-of-a-kind player."
Nevertheless, as long as Miller is in the Broncos' locker room, there'll be a little bit of Dumervil still around. And the expectations are still lofty; Miller said his Super Bowl guarantee remains valid.
"We just want to be the best team we can possibly be," Miller said, "and we know if we can do that, that will be more than enough."