“I don’t consider the nickel the base, just because of the semantics of it,” the defensive coordinator said with a little laugh. “Base is base. Sub is sub. But (nickel) is the norm. It is the most frequently played defensive unit.
“I think last year, 66 percent of our snaps were in the sub package. You’re playing more and more 3-wide receiver sets, or even 2-tight end sets where the second tight end is really almost like a wide receiver. So you’re playing a lot of sub downs, so we’ve adjusted accordingly.”
Some of the adjusting has come from the front office, which acquired another Swiss-Army-knife pass rusher in
With a rash of injuries in 2013, Del Rio’s sub packages had to be frequently restocked. A year after featuring the league’s eight-fewest unique lineups (225) during the regular season, the defense trotted out 484 unique lineups in 2013, 35 more than any other team.
The greatest constant in 2013’s frenzied rotation was
“I know just from talking to [quarterback] Peyton [Manning], when he’s trying to figure out a defense he looks right at me to tell him exactly what type of [defense] we’re in,” Harris said. “Since I know that he’s always watching me and trying to figure it out, that’s a huge position.”
Harris’ skills in the slot will be missed if he isn’t ready to start the season. Perhaps equally important, one less body at corner in a league Del Rio says is seeking “more space and tempo” would be a challenge to overcome. By adding free agent
“I’d say the fourth corner becomes a little more important because you can never have enough,” Del Rio said. “And the reason people say that is because if somebody gets nicked, is tired, whatever, or something happens with the helmet, you have another guy that can go in. That’s a good position to be in.”
“So three is a necessity, I think, nowadays. I think having a fourth guy that is very capable is also very important.”
The in-season rotation is still far from being determined and certainly dependent on the health of Harris. But one thing’s for sure: Whenever Harris is ready, he’ll be on the field a lot.
“Pretty much, [nickel is] all we run,” he said. “That’s pretty much our main defense, really.”