David Zalubowski/Associated Press
The Broncos added future Hall of Fame defensive end DeMarcus Ware this offseason in free agency. He’s coming off a disappointing six-sack season last year with the Dallas Cowboys, and Ware is trying to prove that he still has plenty left in the tank.
So far in practice, Ware looks like the burst and explosiveness off the edge have never left. The elbow injury that slowed him down last season is getting better, although Ware admits he’s not quite 100 percent healthy yet.
Ware gives the Broncos a great combination with outside linebacker Von Miller. He’s coming off a knee (ACL) injury suffered in the Week 16 game last year against the Houston Texans. Miller is not going to play in Week 1 of the preseason, but the plan is to have him on the field to begin the regular season.
We won’t see Miller on Thursday night, and there’s a chance we don’t see much (if any) of Ware either. This means the team is going to have to feature some up-and-coming players on the roster.
A player who should get plenty of opportunity this preseason is second-year defensive end Quanterus Smith.
He missed all of his rookie season last year as the Broncos chose to shut him down for the year. Smith injured his knee at Western Kentucky in 2012, and he wasn’t quite ready to contribute at the end of training camp last year. He’s fully healthy now and could provide the team with a great part-time pass-rusher.
Malik Jackson could be a player who gets a larger showcase in the preseason opener against the Seahawks. He’s improved every year he’s been in the league, and Jackson has worked hard to get bigger/stronger this offseason. In addition to greater size, Jackson has been dutifully picking up pointers from Ware all summer.
Inside at defensive tackle, we could see Marvin Austin get some interior pressure. The 2011 second-round pick has bounced around to four different teams during his pro career. If healthy and motivated, Austin has the skill set to be a disruptive force from the defensive tackle spot.