The Broncos posted a very respectable 41 team sacks in 2014, a baker’s dozen less than the Bills, who led the league with 54. With two All-Pro edge rushers and rookie Shane Ray, the Denver D wants to make a run at the No. 1 spot in the League. How many sacks will the defense have this season?

Last season, 15 of the leagues’ 32 teams had 40 or more sacks, including Denver with 41. In order to form an above-average pass rush, the magic number of sacks is 40. Over the past three seasons, the Broncos have twice finished with 41 sacks, and tied for league lead in 2012 with 52.

Newly hired defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, back for a second stint in Denver, has coached in the NFL for almost forty years. Phillips is known for his 3-4 defense, and his philosophy boils down to using pressure to make the opposing quarterback uncomfortable.

In Phillips’ last season as a defensive coordinator in 2013, the Houston Texans finished 29th in the League in sacks, an underwhelming result, especially considering Phillips’ reputation as an aggressive coach.

If Phillips was unable to inspire a talented defense led by J.J. Watt in 2013, will he be able to unleash the full potential of Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware and Company?

In all likelihood, the Broncos’ defense is talented enough to give the opposing quarterback fits, regardless of scheme. Miller, the 26-year-old All-Pro linebacker had 14 sacks last season, and has the talent to get 20. Throw in a contract year for Von and we could witness a NFL record.

Miller, and fellow outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, are among the best pass-rushing tandems in the NFL.

“The outside ‘backers, you want them to be the rush guys,” Phillips told ESPN. “I’ve been lucky to have a lot of really good ones. I’ve always said, ‘Hey, if he can rush well, if he’s a really great rusher, let him rush.’ It seems simple but sometimes people want to drop them in the pass and all that stuff.”

Ware has played under Phillips before, when the latter coached the Dallas Cowboys from 2007-10. The 32-year-old Ware had 60 sacks in four seasons under Phillips, including 20 in 2008. Ware has played some of his best football for Phillips. If Ware and Miller are comfortable as the “outside ‘backers” in the 3-4 defense, they could combine for 30 or more sacks on their own.

The Broncos’ first round pick, linebacker Shane Ray, has spent the offseason picking the brains of Ware and Miller, eager to learn everything he can from the All-Pro pass rushers.

“I work with DeMarcus and Von every day,” Ray said via “With both of those guys, I kinda have the opportunity to look through their eyes on how they see things on the field and I just utilize that and add to my game.”

Ray wants to make an immediate impact on the field, and has not been afraid to verbalize it.

“I don’t see anything less than Defensive Rookie of the Year,” Ray has said. “I mean that’s my goal.”

Apart from Denver’s trio of talented pass rushers, expect defensive linemen Malik Jackson, Sylvester Williams, Derek Wolfe, and Marvin Austin Jr., linebackers Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall and safety T.J. Ward to provide additional pressure out of Phillips’ aggressive, blitzing, 3-4 defense.

So, how many sacks will the Broncos have next season?


Bryce Rudnick, a Mile High Sports intern and CU-Boulder student, contributed to this report