Keith Johnson, Deseret Morning News
New Blaze defensive linemen Dwayne Missouri, left, and E.J. Burt are all smiles during a recent practice at the University of Utah.

If there's one thing the Utah Blaze have been struggling with over their first two years of existence, it's defense.

The Blaze, perhaps the most impressive offensive unit in all of the Arena Football League, have had no trouble putting up boatloads of points on the scoreboard.

But as fans will surely tell you, they've also allowed opponents to put up nearly as many points and score almost at will.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the top priority during the recent offseason was to go out and find some stoppers.

"I'm here to make quarterbacks uncomfortable," new defensive lineman Dwayne Missouri said. "When they recruited me to come here, they told me they needed me to bring a pass rush, and that's what I'm going to do."

Missouri played the past four seasons with the Philadelphia Soul, where he had seven sacks, four pass breakups and six forced fumbles a year ago. As one of the AFL's top pass rushers, he's used to putting pressure on quarterbacks and, if he can't get a sack, forcing a hurried pass instead of letting receivers break apart his secondary.

That's a philosophy shared by Missouri's fellow former Philly lineman E.J. Burt.

Together, the duo hopes to add a much-needed layer of protection.

"I wanted to be a determining factor in the change," Burt said. "I could have gone to a team that had a good defense. Or I could have stayed where I was. But I wanted to come in, do my thing and see that it changed a team and made it better. I want to be a part of that."

Burt spent last season in Chicago, where he had six sacks, five pass breakups and four fumbles forced. His 21.5 total tackles may not sound like a lot, but in the pass-happy AFL, they are a huge number for a lineman. He's had a total of 35 sacks over the past five seasons.

Missouri, likewise, has established himself as one of the top linemen in the AFL over the past few seasons with 27 sacks in five seasons.

The entire Utah Blaze team, on the other hand, had a total of just 10 sacks in 2007 as they dealt with injuries and poor secondary play.

"I bring pass rush, that's it," Missouri, an imposing 6-foot-5, 280-pounder from Northwestern University, said of what Blaze fans can expect to see from him. "I'm here to make the secondary look better."

With team practices limiting what they are able to do — Utah quarterback Joe Germaine is off limits during practice — the new Utah defensive line, which includes returning nose tackle Chris Janek, is eagerly looking forward to the season-opener March 1 against Arizona.

"I can't wait to go hit a quarterback," Burt said. "That's what we think about all day."

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