Den­ver de­fense en­ter­ing train­ing camp with re­newed fo­cus and a lit­tle “sugar”

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Nicki Jhab­vala

First-year Bron­cos coach Vance Joseph likes his buzz­words. The au­di­to­rium at the team’s Dove Val­ley head­quar­ters is lit­tered with them. “TRUTH,” in blue cap­i­tal let­ters, is sprawled across the back wall.

But it was “juice” that the Bron­cos were miss­ing of­fen­sively in 2016 and what Joseph is on a mis­sion to re­gain in 2017.

And “sugar” is what the Bron­cos’ de­fense added this off­sea­son, de­spite the losses of co­or­di­na­tor Wade Phillips and vet­eran line­backer De­mar­cus Ware.

“I don’t want to come in and change the fin­ger­prints or the foun­da­tion of our de­fense,” said Joe Woods, the team’s for­mer de­fen­sive backs coach who was pro­moted to de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor. “All I said is, I want to sprin­kle a lit­tle sugar on it. It’s some­thing that will give us a lit­tle changeup, make of­fenses work at the line of scrim­mage. That’s all we’re do­ing.”

The Den­ver de­fense that led the NFL against the pass for two years is out to do it a third time. The base laid by Phillips, Woods’ men­tor and pre­de­ces­sor, hasn’t budged. It has un­der­gone small ren­o­va­tions to re­vi­tal­ize a run de­fense that ranked only 28th last sea­son with 130.3 yards al­lowed, and to im­prove a pass de­fense that yielded an Nfl-best 185.8 yards.

“I don’t want to go back­ward on de­fense and I’ve said that from the very get-go,” gen­eral man­ager John El­way said. “We’re not go­ing to go back on de­fense. It’s im­por­tant for us to con­tinue to stay good on de­fense and help the of­fense.”

Phillips’ ver­sion of the 3-4 align­ment was based on sim­plic­ity and de­signed to fea­ture the pass rush. Get­ting to the quar­ter­back was the pri­mary goal, and the Bron­cos had the per­son­nel to do it with Von Miller and Ware on the edges, two of the NFL’S top cor­ner­backs in Chris Har­ris and Aqib Talib and a pair of elite safeties in T.J. Ward and Dar­ian Ste­wart.

“Our de­fense, we made lit­tle tweaks. We’re not as sim­ple as we have been in the past,” Har­ris said on the NFL Net­work re­cently. “In the past, we played so much man and just mak­ing it so easy for the quar­ter­backs. So now we’re go­ing to sprin­kle in dif­fer­ent lit­tle things and make them think.”

Some of those tweaks are per­son­nel changes. Get­ting big­ger up front was a pri­or­ity, so the Bron­cos added nose tack­les Do­mata Peko and Zach Kerr in free agency, then drafted de­fen­sive end De­mar­cus Walker in the sec­ond round. Shane Ray, who played more snaps than Ware last sea­son be­cause of in­juries, will be the true starter this year, with Shaquil Bar­rett stay­ing as a key re­serve. Bran­don Mar­shall and Todd Davis will again man the in­side, and the sec­ondary will again stand as the back­bone — one that could be even bet­ter with safeties Will Parks and Justin Sim­mons en­ter- ing their sec­ond sea­sons.

“My mes­sage to the whole group this year was that we have to reset,” Woods said. “I feel like af­ter the first year we won the Su­per Bowl, we were fly­ing high. Guys came back and they worked hard, but it wasn’t the same thing. We came back for 2016 and didn’t have the sea­son we wanted. 2015, it was great and we won the Su­per Bowl. 2016, it was down. Those two years have noth­ing to do with what we are try­ing to do in 2017. We have a reset men­tal­ity and we’re wor­ried about what we’re do­ing this year to get bet­ter.”

John Leyba, Den­ver Post file

Bron­cos cor­ner­back Chris Har­ris cel­e­brates af­ter break­ing up a third-down pass to Kansas City Chiefs wide re­ceiver Al­bert Wil­son last Novem­ber. The Den­ver sec­ondary, nick­named the “No-fly Zone,” re­mains loaded with ta­lent. “I don’t want to go back­ward on de­fense,” GM John El­way says.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.