BEREA — The Broncos defense used to be known as the Orange Crush in the 1980s.
Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil might not have a nickname, but they have been lead the stampede to opposing quarterbacks this season. There is only one tandem of linebacker/defensive end in the NFL that has more combined sacks than their combined 25 sacks. The Texans’ J.J Watt (19.5) and Whitney Mercilus (6) have 25.5.
Miller has 16 and is third overall, in the NFL in sacks behind only the 49ers’ Aldon Smith (19.5) and Watt. Dumervil has nine sacks.
Offensive coordinator Brad Childress is aware of the pair.
“You better make provisions to double, chip, slide protection,” Childress said. “Those guys are something coming off the edge.
“I probably didn’t have too much of a feel for those guys until you start watching tape on them.”
Miller had 11.5 sacks as a rookie in 2011 and went to his first Pro Bowl. In addition to the sacks, Miller has six forced fumbles and 25 tackles for loss this season.
Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas is impressed with Miller.
“He may be the fastest guy on their defense, corners and safeties included,” Thomas said. “I don’t know if he runs a 4.5 or a 4.4 or whatever he is, but there’s nobody that’s that is quicker or faster at outside linebacker, that’s for sure.
“He may be one of the fastest linebackers in the league,” he said. “When you talk about the combination of speed, quickness and you put him out there rushing the quarterback at 240 pounds or whatever he is, that’s a tough group of talent to deal with.”
Pat Shurmur respects Miller greatly.
“He’s got unique skill and ability and he’s got an outstanding feel for the game,” Shurmur said. “That was obvious watching him play at Texas A & M and I knew his college coach at the time very well, Mike Sherman, so we talked a lot about it.
“He was such a dominant force in college,” he said. “It was no mystery to me that he was going to be a good player in this league and he’s fit well in their scheme. They use him extremely well as a pass rusher and then he drops back in coverage and intercepts footballs and he tackles the runner. I don’t see any reason why he’s not going to be an outstanding player for a long time.”
Dumervil has 61.5 sacks since 2006, which is the fifth-best in the NFL in that time. He has been to two Pro Bowls and torched the Browns on two occasions. He had a good chunk of those against the Browns as he sacked Brady Quinn four times on Sept. 20, 2009. In a game prior to that, he sacked Charlie Frye three times on Oct. 22, 2006.
“It’s tough to say definitively, ‘Yes, they are the best’,” Thomas said. “They’re certainly in the top couple of tandems. They’re definitely different than a lot of guys that we face. We have a lot of respect for the guys in Cincinnati and some of those groups that have outstanding defensive ends, but when you’re talking about 3-4 outside linebacker, get after the quarterback on third down guys, it’s hard to find anybody who’s better.”
Trent Richardson knows one of his assignments this week will be to try and help slow down the pass rush.
“Yeah, you’ve got to,” Richardson said. “My focus every week is on blitz pickups and pass protection, but this week is more like you’ve got a guy who is looking across from you that knows he can get a sack almost every play. That’s his mindset.”
Richardson also knows the Broncos will focus to shut him down. The Broncos are second in the NFL in rushing defense.
“Yeah, I expect the same,” Richardson said. “I expect they are going to try to get after Brandon (Weeden) too. That’s one thing Denver does, especially with Von Miller right there.
“He’s one of the best linebackers I’ve seen watching him on film,” he said. “He’s got 16 sacks. I don’t know the stats of many guys, but I know the stats of that guy there. That’s one guy you’ve got to keep your eye on and make sure you can do whatever you can to go and make sure that he’s not making a tackle or disrupting a play.”
Shurmur says the Browns have to make the most of their opportunities against the Bronco defense.
“I think we have to play well form first snap to the last snap,” he said. “When we have an opportunity to score points we have to make sure they count.”
Nice Find: Undrafted rookie free agent Tashaun Gipson has made his mark and will likely start Sunday in place of Usama Young at free safety. Young will move to strong safety in place of T.J. Ward.
“I feel good about Gipson,” Shurmur said. “He’s done a very nice job for us in there. He communicates well. He’s a good athlete. We see him intercept passes. He does all the things you need from a safety and I’m looking forward to him having a good game.”
Gipson not only made the team but bypassed DB Eric Hagg and has started two games. He has 23 tackles and one interception.
“All the things I just mentioned make him a guy that was worthy of making the team,” Shurmur said. “We knew quite a bit about him. We brought him in, of course because we liked him, but then once they’re here you’ve got to see him do it in training camp.
“He showed use the things we thought,” he said. “He is what we thought he was, so to speak. He’s done well. It’s not an easy position to play, safety, because you get involved tackling, but as soon as you get too involved they throw something over your head. There needs to be some instincts there and he showed us that he has those.”
Defensive coordinator Dick Jauron was surprised Gipson wasn’t drafted.
“He has made tremendous progress,” he said. “From the first time you saw him on the field, you wondered why he wasn’t drafted. You’re always told that it doesn’t matter how a player gets to your camp, but you always wonder what was missing and we haven’t found that.
“I think our personnel department did a tremendous job with him.”
Injury Update: WR Mohamed Massaquoi (undisclosed) TE Jordan Cameron (head) and DL Frostee Rucker (shoulder/hip) didn’t practice. Limited were: WR Josh Cribbs (knee), OL Shawn Lauvao (head/foot), WR Mohamed Massaquoi (knee), DL Juqua Parker (knee), DL Phil Taylor (knee) and OL Joe Thomas (back).
Shurmur said Cameron came in Wednesday not feeling well and they’re treating him like he had a concussion. If he’s unable to play against the Broncos, Shurmur said that rookie TE/FB Brad Smelley would likely be activated.
Jauron Mum on Patterson Release: Defensive coordinator Dick Jauron refused to weigh in on the release of DB Dimitri Patterson.
“I think it would be inappropriate for me to comment on that,” he said.
Jauron did weigh in on Patterson’s replacement, DB Buster Skrine.
“I’m a big Buster Skrine fan,” Jauron said. “He’s tough, quick and just needs experience.”
Not Worried: Defensive coordinator Dick Jauron was asked about his future and he said he just focuses on the season.
“I don’t worry about those kinds of things,” Jauron said. “They always seem to take care of themselves.”
Offensive coordinator Brad Childress took the same approach.
“I think it is a misuse of energy,” Childress said. “What will be will be.”
Touchdown Trent: Despite averaging just 3.5 yards per carry, RB Trent Richardson has scored 11 rushing touchdowns to set a Browns rookie record.
Shurmur was asked what kind of boost did Richardson give the Browns in the red zone this year after scoring just four rushing touchdowns all of last season.
“A really good boost, quite frankly,” Shurmur said. “I’m glad you asked that question because everybody’s been very critical of Trent. The last time I checked, he’s got the second-most rushing touchdowns of anybody in the league only behind Arian Foster.”
Childress said that he doesn’t feel Richardson has hit the wall.
“I don’t get that sense at all (that he’s wearing down),” Childress said. “He’s strong.”
Big Phil: Shurmur said that DL Phil Taylor has come back and is playing better than he did last year.
“I’m glad Phil’s back and I think he’s playing better than he did last year,” Shurmur said. “It’s unfortunate that he had to miss the year with that injury, but he’s back going and playing well.”