ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --The Broncos aren't dealing with a whole lot of disrespect this offseason.
Expectations are high, and many consider Denver to be a favorite in the AFC.
But one position that has heard the doubters is the defensive line. With Elvis Dumervil now in Baltimore, some feel the line has weakened entering 2013.
"There's definitely a chip on our shoulder from the naysayers saying we're an average group and that Elvis was our whole defensive line, which wasn't true, but he played a good part of it," defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson said. "Like I said, we're always trying to prove something, and you're always trying to find something to push you, so I think we got it and we know what we've got to do. We'll be all right."
The reason Vickerson knows the line will be just fine centers around the club's offseason pickups. Vickerson re-signing was the first, followed by the addition of free agents Terrance Knighton and Shaun Phillips and new draftees Sylvester Williams and Quanterus Smith.
Not to mention the returners on the line looking to step up in Dumervil's absence.
"Robert Ayers is coming along great, and he's doing terrific in his pass rushing, and Jeremy Beal is another guy that's coming off an injury that's playing real good right now and rushing good," Vickerson said. "It's going to be a collective group as a whole to replace what a guy like Elvis brought to the table, but I think we can do it."
While there's only so much defensive linemen can do without pads during OTAs, Vickerson said the chemistry on the interior of the line is coming along quickly.
In particular, Vickerson has enjoyed getting to know Knighton. When he signed with the team, Knighton said he wants to "build a wall" in the middle of the line with Vickerson.
"Terrance, man, his instincts and knowledge of the game is real good," Vickerson said. "He's got a good I.Q. of the game, and him playing the same system in Jacksonville, knowing what (Defensive Coordinator) Jack (Del Rio) wants, and then carrying it over to us, it's been good. And he's a character. I like the big guy."
The veteran said he has also seen what Williams can bring to the table as he continues to adapt to the speed of the game and strength of NFL offensive linemen.
"He's not playing with his hands all the time -- but when he does, it's great, and you see what he's doing. He's dominating," Vickerson said of the rookie. "It's a good, solid, four-man rotation with me, him and Mitch (Unrein) and Terrance. It's a good deal."
And the line playing with a chip on its shoulder has a chance to show what it's made of early in the season against the very team that now has the departed Dumervil.
"That's even better," Vickerson said of opening the year against the Ravens. "I know he's going to be amped up for that game, too, but like I said, it'll be a good way to get the nasty taste out of my mouth, too. We'll be all right."