The Broncos aren’t getting bigger at the defensive tackle spots for the sake of adding bulk. They’re getting bigger to make life easier for the players around them — the ends to their flanks and the linebackers behind them.
“It helps a lot. They’re able to take on double-teams and keep the linebackers free,” said Joe Mays. “That’s been great for us so far, even though we haven’t had on pads.
“When the pads come, we’re going to really get a chance to see what’s going to happen out there when it comes to the run game, but so far, so good.”
Much has been made of the signing of 312-pound Justin Bannan, the work of 330-pound Sealver Siliga with the first team the last two weeks and the massive weight gain for Kevin Vickerson, who went up to 324 pounds in recent weeks.
Part of the reason Del Rio wants his interior linemen larger is to occupy blockers to help free his edge pass rushers to make big plays and increase their chances of facing only one blocker in a one-on-one matchup. But the other aspect of that is near and dear to the heart of the Broncos’ new defensive coordinator — who had a quietly stellar 12-year career that included a Pro Bowl appearance 18 years ago.
“With him being a linebacker, he understands the way we feel and what we see,” linebacker Wesley Woodyard said. “So, you know what, he just always wants us to attack.
And having massive bodies up front that can occupy blockers will help make that happen — and assist Mays in particular, who struggled with missed tackles last season. The issue gnawed at him throughout the offseason; he spoke of it at length in April, vowing to correct it for this year.
But when Del Rio broke down the footage from last year, he didn’t see a player worth jettisoning — he saw one who could be effective with improved form from the teammates in front of him.
“I think some of the holes that he was asked to fill were awfully big,” Del Rio explained on May 12. “We’re going to try and reduce some of those holes a little bit with our technique in the front and I think Joe will play even better when that happens.”
Given the potential $12 million contract investment made in Mays this offseason, the Broncos have already shown their faith he will improve — as will the entire linebacking corps. Mays believes that upgrade will come in part due to the ongoing offseason sessions, which weren’t allowed last year at team facilities because of the lockout.
“We have to be more consistent across the board,” Mays said. “Last year we had guys subbing in and subbing out. We just weren’t really able to catch a rhythm. This year we have to be a little bit more consistent.
“We have to go out there and play the game the way it’s supposed to be played instead of trying to go out there and do our own thing. I think we did a lot of that last year, and I think that was more of us trying to gel with one another, trying to learn the playbook, because we had such a short time.
“Not to make that an excuse, but this year is going to be a lot different. We’re all out there together, learning together, playing together. It’s going to make a huge difference.”