Denver Broncos | News

Antonio Smith gets settled in with Broncos

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **Just about everything about being with the Broncos agrees with defensive end Antonio Smith: being back with coaches like Gary Kubiak, Wade Phillips and Bill Kollar, working in a 3-4 with talented outside rushers that will allow him to work in 1-on-1 pass-rush duels, having the chance to mentor young defensive linemen.

"Man, it's fun," Smith said. "I think that it was like a breath of fresh air getting back to these coaches that I'm familiar with, (who) know what I can do, and I know what they want of me."

There is only one problem.

"Other than the weather, I'm loving it," he said. "I got stuck all weekend. Nobody gave the memo (that reads) 'Don't bring a rear-wheel drive car to Denver.'"

Mid-May snowstorms aside, the Broncos are a perfect fit for Smith at this stage of his career.

From a scheme standpoint, the Broncos suit Smith well. In the same defense with Houston, he racked up 27 sacks in five seasons -- 18.5 of which came from 2011-13, after Phillips joined the Texans as defensive coordinator. Among 3-4 defensive ends, only J.J. Watt and Calais Campbell hit quarterbacks more often, according to the numbers compiled by ProFootballFocus.com.

Smith had another successful season as a pass rusher last year with the Raiders in their 4-3 alignment. It helps that the Phillips 3-4 shares principles with most 4-3 looks, which should ease the transition for the entire defensive line.

"The way Wade runs the 3-4, I've never seen it as a 3-4, because you still have a three-technique, a nose (tackle), and a five-technique or a four-technique," Smith said. "If DeMarcus (Ware) puts his hand on the ground, it's the same positions for us."

And Smith knows that Phillips will align his players where they fit best, and tweak the scheme to maximize their skills.

"Wade and his guys, I think the whole defensive coaching staff, is real good at knowing what you can do, and letting you do what you can do, to your advantage," Smith said. "Sometimes coaches get big in fitting you into the mold or the framework of how they run things -- like, you can be a pass rusher, but if their defense calls for a two-gap, they want you to two-gap.

"Well, Wade, he studies you, he sees what you can do best, and (says), 'If you can do this, I'm going to make my defense work best with you doing this.' That freedom works well with what I do on the field."

And that freedom also helps him use his experience to serve as a mentor and offer coaching to his younger teammates.

Smith admits that he "sometimes" serves as an unofficial player-coach because of the advice he provides to his younger teammates.

"I'm starting to watch some of the younger players just like coaches do, and I see a lot of attributes in all of them," Smith said. "They've got different talents, but they all equally have skill."

And one player who jumped out was Kenny Anunike. The Duke alumnus spent last year on injured reserve with an elbow injury, but recovered and picked up where he left off during last year's training camp, when he was one of the most pleasant surprises because of his intensity and his natural pass-rush ability.

"The coaches right off the bat noticed that Kenny was just out-running and out-hustling everybody out there on the practice field during the (voluntary veteran) minicamp," Smith said. "I see a lot of talent in him, but I see a lot of talent in the other guys, too."

Smith added that "a couple of the rookies" now with the team caught his eye Monday morning, although he did not specify which ones. However, he noted that Anunike has been the most inquisitive.

"But all of them ask me different questions at different points in time: about the defense, or pass rushing. At different points of time, all of them came to me," Smith said. "But Kenny, he's in almost every day, asking me a little something, wondering about this or wondering about that."

There's good reason for defensive linemen to ask questions, given how much they must know.

"Now Bill (Kollar) is real good at doing extra," Smith said of his defensive line coach. "So while the rest of the team only learns half the defense, the D-line has got to know the whole playbook.

"We've got everything down, and he goes over it every day. After the first two weeks, everybody pretty much got it. It [isn't] much help other than technique stuff and pass-rush moves that I'm sharing at this point."

That's more than enough.

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