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Offseason Work Prepped D for Philly's Pace

Posted Sep 26, 2013

The Broncos defense's work in the offseason helped prepare them for fast-paced offenses like the one they'll see Sunday vs. Philadelphia.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Relative to time of possession, only the Buffalo Bills have run plays at a quicker clip than the Eagles through three weeks this season. 

Philadelphia has run one play per 22.2 seconds of possession time the last three weeks. That's about what was expected from their offense in the first season under new Head Coach Chip Kelly, who arrived from the University of Oregon last winter with a predilection for fast-paced offense and zone-read option calls.

"We're preparing for a track meet," said defensive end Shaun Phillips.

The zone read is familiar to the Broncos defenders; they saw it Monday against the Raiders, and anyone on the roster in 2011 remembers it well from seeing it daily in practice. The up-tempo mindset is equally familiar now, thanks to an offseason of work against a fast-paced offense.

But that wasn't true at this time a year ago. Denver's offense was in its first season with Peyton Manning at quarterback, and the unit was learning to crawl and walk before it could run with No. 18 at the controls, leading to a scattershot start. 

What the offense does now wasn't feasible then, so when the Patriots went to the fast break on Oct. 7 of last year, it was unfamiliar, and left Denver's defense gasping.

"That was the fastest I've played in an NFL game my whole career," said defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson.

Last year, such play was the exception to the rule. This year, it's becoming more of the norm -- and in facing a lively offense that has worked fast in practice, it has been that way since offseason work began.

For the offense, the work has already paid dividends; it has accounted for 15 touchdowns in three games, and the Broncos are the highest-scoring team at this point in the season since 1968. Now it will do the same for the defense, which has long been prepared for the Eagles' pace.

"Yeah, most definitely. Man, we've been doing this thing since (May): no huddle, no huddle, no huddle," said Vickerson. "We play our gaps, be sound, have gap integrity and don't take any liberties, I think we'll be fine."

At the least, the defense has improved, and is ready for the Eagles' pace in a way it was not last October in Foxborough.

“I would say a lot better," said cornerback Chris Harris. "We’re more settled in on defense as a unit. Guys have that chemistry together. We know that when are getting hurried up that we can communicate fast now.”

Added Vickerson: "We've just got to come out and play our ball at the end of the day. We know how to play fast; we pride ourselves on playing fast and physical. That's all we've got to do."