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Chris Harris Jr.'s changing role to let him be 'a little bit more aggressive'

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — You only need to see Chris Harris Jr. intercept a single pass to recognize the ball skills and athleticism that belong to the Broncos' top cornerback.

The examples are limited but powerful:

A pick-six against Oakland in 2015 in which he darted in front of the receiver and didn't stop until he was alongside a host of angry Raiders fans.

A diving interception against the Carolina Panthers in the 2016 season opener that changed the tide of the game and led to a Denver win.

A juggling pick against Miami that forced Harris to dislodge the ball and dive in the opposite direction to complete the catch.

Harris has never recorded more than three interceptions in a year and has tallied just two in each of his last three seasons.

His skill, though, is unquestionable, and the Broncos seem set to find a way to utilize the eighth-year player in a bevy of ways.

"[We have] new techniques that we've added that let me be a little bit more aggressive," Harris said. [I'll] be able to jump some routes more, blitzing more. Last year I was supposed to blitz a lot more but I only blitzed like five times. I think [Defensive Coordinator] Joe [Woods] will blitz me more this year."

The importance of getting Harris around the ball more to make plays should not be understated.

The Broncos struggled at times to force turnovers in 2017, and they appear set to scheme Harris into situations in which he can make an impact.

If successful, that change could greatly improve the Broncos' chances on the back end of their defense and directly lead to more wins.

Even without the high interception total, Harris has long served as the shutdown corner in Denver's defense. Former cornerback Aqib Talib and new starter Bradley Roby have taken advantage of the opportunities to make big plays, but neither would've been in position to succeed without Harris' tight coverage.

That hasn't always been recognized outside of the Denver market.

Despite being one of the league's least-targeted and highest-rated corners according to sites like Pro Football Focus, Harris hasn't garnered the same top-notch respect among his peers.

Though Harris has been selected to the NFL Top 100 list for three consecutive years, he's never finished above No. 52. The highest of those rankings came following the team's Super Bowl 50 win, and he fell to No. 86 after last year's 5-11 campaign.

Those results lead Harris to believe the rankings are as much about team success as they are about individual skill.

"I think it's about winning," Harris said. "It's your team winning. You win, and you get up there. I've had years when I was rated No. 1 in PFF and gave up no touchdowns and still didn't make it. It's a lot of popularity and your team has to win. I think it's like a team award."

As Harris looks to help his team attain a higher level of success in 2018, he's willing to remain in the slot, a position that tends to lack the spotlight that follows cornerbacks playing on the outside.

"I want to [play outside], but I don't think [anybody] can play my position," Harris said. "I don't think anybody can go in the slot and play straight man and do what I'm asked to do, even [across] the league. What Joe Woods wants me to [do] in the slot, I have to play man and be able to take [the receiver] all over the field.

"Nobody can do that. It's looking like I'll be inside for sure."

Still, Harris isn't worried about his ability to prove himself to the national media.

"I've gotten First-Team All-Pro in the slot [before]," Harris said, "so I can do it again."

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