Depleted defensive line still looks stout against San Francisco

The Denver Broncos lost three important pieces to their defensive line – including one lost for the season – between their first preseason game and their second, but the depleted defensive line didn’t look like it was any worse for wear against the San Francisco 49ers.

Denver suffered its first blow to the interior line in Preseason Week 1 when Billy Winn suffered a torn ACL. The versatile lineman, who was expected to see time at both defensive end and nose tackle, will miss the entire 2017 season.

Two days later, the Broncos suffered a scare when starting defensive end Derek Wolfe went down in practice with a sprained ankle. He is expected to be healthy in time for the regular season opener on Sept. 11, but will likely miss the remainder of the preseason. He did not participate in Denver’s 33-14 victory over the 49ers.

Their depth was taxed even more when Jared Crick had to be carted off the field just a few days later. Crick experienced back spasms and did not travel with the team to San Francisco for a pair of joint practices and the second preseason game. He could return sooner than Wolfe, but the Broncos are in no rush to return him to action.

Denver was also without its presumed starting outside linebackers. Shane Ray continues to recover from a torn wrist ligament while Von Miller was held out of the game simply to protect the All-Pro’s health. Ray’s timeline for return is still in question, although a Week 1 start is not out of the question.

Saturday’s victory showed that they have no need to rush anyone back, as the defensive line looked strong against a San Francisco rushing attack that ranked fourth in the NFL last season.

Vontarrius Dora and Kasim Edebali were solid off the edge, pressuring Brian Hoyer and recording a tackle apiece.

Nose tackle Domata Peko, acquired via free agency in the offseason, was particularly impressive in the two series he played, consistently demanding a double-team and recording a pair of tackles including one for a loss. Undrafted free agents Nelson Adams and Tyrique Jarrett looked strong in relief of Peko, each recording two tackles and both logging one for a loss.

Zach Kerr and Adam Gotsis were strong in starting roles in place of Wolfe and Crick. Kerr recorded three tackles; Gotsis recorded a tackle for loss on a fumble by Matt Barkley, which San Francisco recovered. Shelby Harris, signed to a futures/reserve contract in the offseason, had a pair of fumble recoveries to bolster his claim for a spot on the roster.

The Denver defense held San Francisco to just 37 yards rushing on the night on 19 attempts, producing a pair of fumbles.

The team at Mile High Sports was keeping a close eye on the D-line’s play as the game unfolded. Here’s what they had to say on Twitter, along with input from some of our favorite follows, on the performance Saturday night.

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