Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports

With The Injury Bug Striking Denver's D-line, The Onus Is On Darius Kilgo

Following a key camp injury on the Broncos defensive line, the onus is now on second-year Darius Kilgo to step up.

Heading into training camp, it was the opinion of many analysts, including yours truly, that second-year defensive lineman Darius Kilgo would be fighting for his job. As the Denver Broncos sixth round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, Kilgo had a strong camp and earned a spot on the 53-man roster. 

Kilgo appeared in nine regular season games as a rookie, accumulating five solo tackles and a pass defensed. For a rookie still learning the professional ropes, he served as quality depth on Denver's defensive line, seeing time both at nose tackle and 5-tech defensive end. 

Head coach Gary Kubiak liked what he saw from Kilgo as a rookie, and talked about his expectations for the former Maryland Terrapin just a few weeks ago. 

"I think Darius is going to be a really good player," Kubiak said. 

Kilgo was solid but now he must parlay a Super Bowl-winning rookie campaign into a larger role with the 2016 Broncos. The Broncos lost veteran nose tackle Phil Taylor (knee) to injured reserve and signed a veteran stop-gap for depth in Billy Winn But Kilgo knows the defense. He knows the coaches, his teammates, the locker room culture and the team expectations. If necessity is the mother of invention, then Kilgo has the opportunity to re-shape his role with the Broncos. 

Sylvester Williams is heading into a contract year and is the unquestioned starter at nose tackle. Behind him, however, it's wide open. 

There's the 6-foot-2, 300-pound Vance Walker, but the Broncos had plans for him at DE. He can play the nose, but with Malik Jackson gone, the Broncos face uncertainty at DE as well.

Jared Crick was signed to bolster the DE depth. if he has a strong camp, perhaps the Broncos would feel more comfortable putting Walker behind Williams as the No. 2 NT. 

To truly free the D-line up to have another dominant campaign, the Broncos need Darius Kilgo to be the one to earn that No. 2 job. But they've got to be able to trust him on the grid-iron. 

Williams only played about 50 percent of the snaps last year, and although his goal is to stay on the field longer, the Broncos can't count on it. The 300-plus-pound big fellas need their rest to stay fresh on the field. 

The Broncos used a second round pick on DE Adam Gotsis. If he can rebound from the ACL tear he suffered last Halloween at Georgia Tech, it's conceivable that he could make an impact as a rookie. 

History tells us it takes longer for young D-linemen to develop. Even though Derek Wolfe started as a rookie, he didn't truly become Derek Wolfe until last year. The arrival of D-line coach Bill Kollar was no coincidence in Wolfe turning the corner, so it's possible we could see Gotsis' learning curve be shortened accordingly. 

Coming off an injury and a lack of experience, however, are real obstacles to overcome. They take time. The fact remains, in order for Denver's D-line not to take a step backward, Darius Kilgo has to step up. 

Undrafted guys like Kyle PekoDavid Moala and Calvin Heurtelou are the wild cards. If any of them can make an impact early, the Broncos will have more options. 

Billy Winn could conceivably come in and blow the doors down but Darius Kilgo is a John Elway guy. And Elway has had great success with mid-to-late round defensive players making an impact. 

Darius Kilgo must be the one to step up. 

Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.

Follow Mile High Huddle on Twitter @MileHighHuddle and on Facebook.

To get instant Broncos notifications, download the NEW Scout mobile app for iOS HERE!


Mile High Huddle Top Stories