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Broncos lose key pass rusher to injury

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Shaq Barrett will miss a minimum two to three months, and possibly more, with a hip injury, as originally reported by Brandon Krisztal of the BSN Broncos Podcast and Denver Sports 760. The Broncos’ outside linebacker will meet with a hip specialist in Vail to determine the extent of the injury and whether surgery is necessary. Barrett, who is just 24 despite having three years of NFL experience under his belt, signed with the team as an undrafted free agent out of Colorado State.

Barrett posted 18 sacks during his three college seasons, 12 of which came his senior year. He spent his rookie season on Denver’s practice squad before being promoted to the 53-man roster in 2015. Barrett played in all 16 games each of the last two seasons, sacking the quarterback seven times and forcing five fumbles.

Over the last three years, Denver’s defensive dominance centered around their ability to rush the passer. All-Pros Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware rotated primarily with 2015 first-round pick Shane Ray and Barrett. With Ware retiring and Barrett likely sidelined through at least training camp, Denver will need to find a new source of production.

Vontarrius Dora, the biggest linebacker on the roster at 6-foot-4 and 256 pounds, could provide the extra kick Denver needs behind Miller and Ray. Dora spent his rookie season on the Broncos’ practice squad after signing with the team as an undrafted free agent last offseason. Dora sacked backup Bears quarterback Brian Hoyer twice in his first preseason game, forcing a fumble on one of the hits.

Dora’s closest competition might be fellow former undrafted rookie Kasim Edebali, who signed with the Broncos this offseason after spending his first four years in New Orleans. Edebali broke out in 2015 when he posted five sacks, but he only totaled five tackles all last season, despite playing in all 16 games.

Deon Hollins, an undrafted rookie out of UCLA is the dark horse candidate to replace Barrett. As a sophomore in 2014, Hollins recorded nine sacks and 10 tackles for losses. Due to his severe weakness in coverage, the 6-foot linebacker lost playing time over the next two seasons. Hollins’ pass rush skills could earn him some playing time on passing downs. He is unlikely to serve as anything more than a pass rush specialist.

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