At DT, Bigger Is Better

Jack Del Rio wants massive, space-filling defensive tackles — and he knows some of the answers will have to come from what he inherited.

Kevin Vickerson

Kevin Vickerson, shown in 2010, gained wait at Jack Del Rio's suggestion. (PHOTO: ANDREW MASON / MAXDENVER.COM)

Kevin Vickerson has added weight and moved up to 324. And two of the defensive tackles seeing first-team repetitions at Wednesday’s organized team activity were also the Broncos’ two heaviest defenders prior to Vickerson’s super-sizing; Justin Bannan (312 pounds) and Sealver Siliga (307 pounds). Even defensive end Ben Garland is up to 305 pounds.

Bigger is better for coordinator Jack Del Rio’s defensive tackles — addressing a need that seemed evident throughout the offseason and after the draft, when the only interior defensive lineman added was the relatively lean Derek Wolfe, who carries 300 pounds on a 6-foot-5 frame.

“Well, yeah. We want some size in there,” Del Rio said.

The quest started with Vickerson, a versatile sort who played end in the 3-4 in 2010, then was one of the first potential free agents re-signed in the John Fox era, agreeing to his deal before the 2011 lockout hit.

But as Vickerson moved inside to play tackle in the Broncos’ 4-3, he was undersized.

“The guy I looked at on film last year looked like a defensive end that was moved in there. It was a narrow body,” Del Rio said. “So we’d like to see a large rear end in there and he’s made it a little bigger.”

“He’s added some good weight — and we want to make sure it’s good weight he’s adding, but he’s working hard in the weight room and getting himself into shape.”

But if the Broncos are to bolster their tackle complement for the long term — especially if Ty Warren’s renegotiation impasse results in the veteran’s release — the answers to questions about the unit’s depth will have to come from within. Wolfe, Bannan and Vickerson ought to help, but the Broncos also need one or both of Mitch Unrein and Sealver Siliga to rise.

Sealver Siliga

Sealver Siliga, shown during a 2011 practice, is getting a long look during OTAs. (PHOTO: ANDREW MASON / MAXDENVER.COM)

“We’re going to grow a few of these players that have been here and help them be better this year,” Del Rio Said. “We need some of these guys to take a step forward.”

Unrein saw some spot duty last year; Siliga was consigned to the practice squad. But he got a look with the first team this week, having earned his shot in recent months.

“He’s done everything we’ve asked of him in terms of the weight room and conditioning and studying and then work on the field,” Del Rio said. “I think he’s been really good. It’s our hope that we can bring a guy along like that, develop him and then have him blossom for us.”

Del Rio hopes Warren returns, but in the meantime, he plans to coach up the bulky tackles on hand.

“Any time somebody professionally has that decision to make, and if they choose for whatever reason not to be here, then that opens the door for other guys to get more time and more looks,” Del Rio said.

And with more time in the weight room, those linemen who hang around will be more to Del Rio’s liking.

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About Andrew Mason

Andrew Mason has covered the NFL since 1999, when he worked as an editor on NFL.com when the site was managed by ESPN.com. He worked six seasons (2002-07) covering the Broncos on their official website and two (2008-09) on the Panthers' site. He began MaxDenver.com in 2010 and now contributes to CBSSports.com, The Sporting News and The New York Times.
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