ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As the Broncos’ secondary continues to implement changes from schematics to personnel, the two veteran pillars defending the edges will be a major key for how much heat the defense can bring and how much it can improve further.
Chris Harris Jr. who returned to form after rehabbing from a devastating knee injury, rated as the best cornerback in the NFL in 2014 and Aqib Talib came in at No. 15. Combined with the rest of the secondary, the Broncos were the toughest team to pass against last year, allowing a league-best 5.63 passing yards per play. Individually, three of four members of the secondary earned Pro Bowl selections and Harris also was named a Second-Team All-Pro. “We’re learning, picking up the playbook pretty fast and it’s not a real hard playbook to learn,” Talib said. “It kind of lets you go play so we’ll be able to play fast, we’ll be able to go out and play fast and make a lot of plays. We’ll see what happens.”
“You’re going to be left on an island a lot and with the guys that we have upfront, we already understood that would come with playing the 3-4 and we’re going to bring the heat,” Harris said. “Everything that they’ve said has really translated to how we’re practicing and being left on an island – everybody gone, everybody blitzing, so we’ll be looking forward to that during the season, kind of an attack mode defensive coordinator.”
“We can work on (communication) a little bit now, but most of that is going to come when we get on the field and start doing more team activities and actually seeing the plays and seeing how things develop and just knowing each other,” said Ward. “That is going to come with time.”
And the Broncos hope the unit has the good health that eluded it in 2013. Including the postseason, six different defensive backs combined to miss 25 games to injury, led by Moore and the since-released Champ Bailey, who missed nine apiece.
Given the length of the contracts to Talib and Ward and their ages, the Broncos feel as if they’ve found two secondary linchpins for the next few years.
“That just goes to show you that it’s not for ‘now.’ We want young football players that are going to be here for a long time, and they’re still young in their career and continue to get better,” Executive Vice President/General Manager John Elway said last month.