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Broncos adding a few more (good) calories on defense

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos' defensive line is banking on size translating to excellence.

As the Broncos have signed bigger defensive linemen in free agency -- Zach Kerr and Domata Peko are listed graciously on the Broncos' roster at 334 and 325 pounds, respectively -- they also have asked returning members of the team to get bigger.

Defensive end Jared Crick, who played more snaps on the defensive line last season than any other Bronco (82 percent), might be Exhibit A. Crick, Derek Wolfe and Adam Gotsis are among the defensive linemen who have said their goal this offseason was to gain some weight.

Not a lot -- just enough to push back with a little more power.

"[I] just ate a lot more," Crick said this week. "Obviously, I ate the same things, ate healthy, but instead of trying to eat four times a day, turning it into six or seven times a day. Just smaller portions, but more times ... There’s no real secret as far as training-wise. You just have to train hard and eat right, and eat a lot."

When pressed for details on why the Broncos struggled to stop the run last season (they finished 28th in run defense), coach Vance Joseph and defensive coordinator Joe Woods have tried to answer without pointing fingers.

There’s been general discourse from the organization about revising the scheme, the personnel and the defensive playcalling. But the Broncos' work this offseason, coupled with the defensive line's eat-to-win mentality, points to a far more basic reason for the team's defensive woes. The Broncos, in essence, think they got shoved around last season.

For a unit that has finished No. 1 in both pass defense and sacks in each of the past two seasons, not to mention 2015’s title run, that is a difficult pill to swallow.

"You can't point your fingers at one position or one guy or anything like that," Crick said. "We wanted to get bigger up front. We were undersized last year and we knew it. We just kept our tenacity up. Obviously, we’re doing some different things defensively this year to help out with that. Being bigger and stronger this year will help out with that."

Or as Wolfe put it: "We say whatever we want, but the bottom line is we didn’t get it done. That’s it, we didn’t hold our ground and get it done ... We’re going to get it done this year."

Beyond the stats, the Broncos' linebackers should benefit from the additions of Kerr and Peko. The beefier front should mean fewer blockers will be positioned between those linebackers and the ball carrier. That’s something Brandon Marshall -- whose tackle totals plummeted last season -- claims he already has seen, though the Broncos have not yet donned pads for practice.

"Linebackers are supposed to lead the team in tackles," Marshall said. "We're supposed to be the playmakers on defense, and I think that’s what we need to get back to."

The Broncos have relied on defensive quickness for much of 2015 and 2016. They have four players in the secondary who've made Pro Bowl appearances the past two seasons, as well as Von Miller on the edge.

Woods has said he’s running essentially the same defense that Wade Phillips ran in years past -- albeit with a few tweaks. The bulkier front is certainly a tweak.

"It's intense," Kerr said. "The most intense defense that I’ve been around. I think it’s fun. I think this might be the first place -- obviously, I’ve only been two places -- but I’ve seen where the DBs are the nucleus of the defense. It’s exciting to see the skinny guys get after us sometimes."