ENGLEWOOD - The Denver Broncos have insisted all week that their nightmare seasonopening loss at Miami was nothing to overreact to, and the same goes for their defensive line’s performance. Defensive coordinator Larry Coyer said he was pleased with the pass rush the defensive line had against the Dolphins — even though the rebuilt unit, which is under scrutiny because the overhaul included four former Cleveland Browns, did not record a sack. Coyer said the defensive backs weren’t aggressive enough, which meant the linemen didn’t have a chance to sack the quarterback. Many times quarterback Gus Frerotte took a short drop, hit a receiver just past the line of scrimmage and the receiver maneuvered downfield for a decent gain. “If the coverage isn’t there, you can’t rush,” Coyer said. “We weren’t tight enough. We got a lot of heat on him, it’s just we weren’t coordinated, we weren’t together, we weren’t tight enough in coverage.” Whatever the problem was, the Broncos must fix it by Sunday because they will be playing a dangerous San Diego Chargers offense. Denver’s defense will also probably have a pair of rookie cornerbacks playing prominent roles. Cornerback Champ Bailey didn’t practice Wednesday because of a dislocated left shoulder. The Broncos listed him as questionable on the injury report, meaning he officially has a 50-50 chance of playing. On Monday, Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said Bailey had only an outside chance of playing. So rookie Darrent Williams will probably start, and rookie Domonique Foxworth will be the third cornerback when the Broncos use five defensive backs. They were the culprits in some of the missed tackles that had Coyer upset, but Foxworth and Williams were solid through the preseason and had promising moments against Miami. Foxworth said he and Williams can capably fill in for Bailey. “It’s not going to be a big deal because it can’t be a big deal,” Foxworth said of rookies replacing Bailey. “We don’t want to have to change the scheme based on us coming into the game. You never want to have to protect somebody, because it limits what your defense can do.” Even if the cornerbacks play better, the defensive line can’t get shut out again. Last season Denver held San Diego quarterback Drew Brees to 113.5 passing yards per game in two meetings, and the six sacks they had against Brees was a reason Denver held him down. Getting a pass rush won’t be easy because Brees usually has a short dropback and releases the ball quickly. But the defensive line, which also will play a big role in containing Pro Bowl running back LaDainian Tomlinson, knows it must be a bigger factor than it was against the Dolphins. “At the end of the day, it always comes back to the D-line: Did we do enough to make plays to help the team win?” defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban said. “We didn’t win, so the answer is no.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 476-4891 or email@example.com
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