The Broncos have lost a couple of key defensive pieces via free agency. Which has prompted talk that the Broncos won’t be the same on defense. Which has given one of their best defensive players some extra motivation entering the 2016 season.
“Just hearing everybody saying, ‘We lost Malik [Jackson], Danny [Trevathan], we won’t be the same,” cornerback Chris Harris Jr. told reporters on Wednesday. “‘We won’t be good again.’ That’s our mindset. I think we return nine starters. You can really count [cornerback Bradley] Roby as a starter. We’re really bringing back 10 guys that played a lot. [Safety Shiloh] Keo even played a lot for us. We have a lot of guys back. We know it’s always going to be hard to replace Malik and a guy like Danny Trevathan, who has always had his hair on fire everywhere. [Linebacker] Todd Davis, I think he’ll do a great job of being able to come in and fill that role. No telling with what we’ll do with the draft with the D-linemen. I still think we have the best D-line in the league.”
They definitely have a great pass rush, assuming linebacker Von Miller returns at some point. For now, he’s not there — and Harris isn’t concerned.
“It’s kind of a process,” Harris said. “You see this every year happen, especially with the top free-agent guys. They get tagged and they always hold out until July. It’s something that you always see. It’s the nature of our business. I’ll talk to Von when he’s not flying or going New York to L.A. He’s been working, but he’s been busy. He’s definitely making the most of that [Super Bowl] MVP.”
It’s hard not to wonder whether Harris truly believes that, especially since Harris was next asked about linebacker Brandon Marshall, who chose to show up for offseason workouts despite not having a contract.
“It’s good to see how important it is for him to be here to train even though he’s still looking for a contract,” Harris said. “It’s good for him to set aside the things that he wants and put the team first.”
While Harris would likely justify the difference in attitude by pointing to the fact that Marshall is “the automatic leader” as the middle linebacker, putting team first is putting team first. Marshall, as far as Harris is concerned, is putting team first. Which possibly means, by implication, that Harris thinks Miller isn’t putting team first.
Still, Harris said he won’t be surprised if Miller doesn’t show up until training camp.
“That’s kind of normal,” Harris said. “[Ryan] Clady, D.T. [Demaryius Thomas], since I’ve been here that’s been the norm.”
The norm also has been that the defense in Denver is pretty good. It could be even better in Year Two of Wade Phillips’ scheme.
“We’ll try to get more picks,” Harris said. “We’ve watched missed opportunities, and we could have had even more picks than what we had. That’s something that we’re focusing on. It’s so hard. We were No. 1 in so many categories. Passes [allowed] 20-plus [yards] down the field, we’re No. 1. It’s just trying to figure out ways we can get better. Penalties are something that we looked at that we have to be a lot smarter. We can’t have any dumb penalties like we did last year. Little things like that.”
The big thing is that the Broncos (if you haven’t heard) won the Super Bowl last year.
“It’s so hard to win a Super Bowl,” Harris said. “It takes so much work. It’s just about guys having that same type of work ethic that you had the year before. That’s something I kind of wanted to do. I wanted to make sure I had that same work ethic that I had the past years so it doesn’t change. As long as we continue to put the same work in, we don’t have to worry about what New England is doing, what Carolina is doing or what any of those teams are doing. We just have to worry about ourselves and continue to improve our team.”
It won’t be easy to improve with Jackson and Trevathan gone. It will be easier when Miller returns.