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Q&A With Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio

Posted Jul 16, 2013

Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio talks about competition on the defense as he enters his second season with the Broncos

Editor’s note: DenverBroncos.com sat down with the assistant coaches to talk about their position groups before the coaches left Dove Valley for vacations in mid-June.

How has the competition at middle linebacker looked during this period of OTAs and minicamp?
“We’ve given everybody a fair shot at getting some time in there and establishing themselves. It’s been good competition. They’re learning the system and taking charge. They’re doing the things that we need a linebacker to do for us to be successful.”

What do you look for in that middle linebacker position?
“You try and maximize what a guy is capable of doing and how he fits in with what you want to get done defensively. So often, in today’s NFL, you get into sub-groups and you can take a third guy off. It could be the 'Mike', it could be the 'Will', it could be the 'Sam'. We just happen to have a really gifted 'Sam' that moves down to defensive end in Von Miller. We know that there’s a chance that we could end up keeping three linebackers on the field regardless. It just depends upon who they are and whether the 'Mike' can be a guy that can also cover the backs and tight ends in sub situations. If he is, that’s a bonus."

How does practicing against your own offense help prepare the defense for other teams that can run an up-tempo offense at times?
“I think the good thing about our offense is that we do a lot of different things. We do really good things, but we work out of all the various personnel groupings. We’ll go all the way from four or five wide receivers all the way to a bunch of tight ends and backs in power sets. That’s great for us because we kind of cover the whole gamut of what we’re going to experience throughout the season, so that’s really beneficial to us. And then, obviously, when you have a talented group of receivers, a Hall-of-Fame quarterback, a really talented backfield – when you have people like that who you’re competing against, that certainly helps you prepare.”

With the way that teams use tight ends in the passing game today, how does it help to have a guy like Quentin Jammer who can cover as a corner or play safety?
“Well, that’s the idea. When we acquired him and signed him, we really spent the time he was here this spring trying to bring him up to speed. Now, when we get into camp, he should be able to compete for a spot. The whole idea was to get him up to speed as quickly as possible so that he has a chance to compete. He’s a physical player, he’s got the coverage skills necessary to cover and has done that very well for a long time as a corner. Now to be able to slide in and give us some help on the tight ends that we face, hopefully he’s able to take that step and get comfortable within our system and we can take advantage of his skillset.”

How important is it to have guys like Jammer and Chris Harris who are versatile and can play inside or outside?
“It’s with the demands of today’s NFL. You’d like to have numbers in the secondary and keep them all healthy. That’s the key. But certainly, we’ve done a good job of acquiring a competitive group and now it’s up to us to work them and maximize their abilities. We want to make it tough for a quarterback to operate. We want to challenge all throws. We want to be a group that will tackle, leverage and tackle, and minimize big plays. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, but we’ve had a good, solid spring thus far in preparing ourselves for the season.”

What’s made Chris Harris so good and why did no one see that coming out of college?
“It’s hard to measure the heart. His drive, his determination, his will – he’s a good football player. When you put on the tape, Chris is getting his job done. He’s no-nonsense in his approach and he’s just a productive football player. How or why doesn’t really matter at this point. Once you get into the league, when you get invited to camp, it’s about what you do when you’re there. He’s clearly taken full advantage of that.”

What’s that matchup between Chris and Wes Welker like in practice, and how has that made each of them better?
“Obviously having a slot like Wes to cover day-in and day-out is going to sharpen your skills. I think Chris has embraced the challenge of working against one of the very best and he’s held his own. He’s battled tough all spring and I’m sure it’ll continue into the fall.”

How has Jeremy Beal looked as he comes back from last year's season-ending injury?
“Jeremy’s a good, young player who had an unfortunate injury last year. We’re glad to have him back and healthy. He’s in the mix at defensive end. With our situation in the defensive line, we’re trying to make it as competitive as possible, to let guys fight for their position, fight for their playing time, fight for their role, and let it play out in camp. That is the one area where I really can’t wait to get to fall camp, where we put the pads on and really determine who can help us in the trenches.”