ENGLEWOOD – Outside linebacker Robert Ayers is coming along just fine.

At first glance, the Denver Broncos’ first-round pick hasn’t lived up to expectations, with only one tackle and no other stats through three games. But linebackers coach Don Martindale explained that Ayers, who has played in the Broncos’ nickel defense on passing downs, has done plenty that doesn’t show up in the stat sheet and is making a normal progression for a rookie.

“He’s doing a lot of good things in our team defensive scheme that people don’t see and recognize,” Martindale said.

Martindale offered an example: Against the Browns, Ayers’ responsibility on certain plays was to “set the edge,” or keep the quarterback contained in the pocket. Ayers held his ground against Cleveland Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas. Dumervil benefited with a four-sack day.

“That was able to free up Elvis Dumervil, along with everybody else,” Martindale said. “If he doesn’t play his role in that pass rush, in that situation, Brady Quinn is able to get out of the pocket. There’s things like that, times that we ask him to do a lot of different things other than just rush the passer or setting the edge of the defense. I’m really excited about him.”

The Broncos admit Ayers isn’t a finished product. He’s still learning the nuances of the defense and of playing outside linebacker after being primarily a defensive end in college. Martindale said Ayers is working in a positive direction toward becoming a full-time starter, but all of Denver’s starting linebackers ahead of him are playing well.

The team is fine with how Ayers has fared so far as a rookie.

“I have nothing but good things to say about Robert Ayers,” Martindale said. “I think he’s right on schedule.”

For more see http://www.gazette.com/broncos