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Coordinators' Corner: Defensive stars and attacking Rex's scheme

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --With the Broncos leaving for New York tomorrow, Denver's coordinators broke down some of their own team's stars and the Rex Ryan-led Jets.


Based on their impressive performances against the Cardinals in Week 5, you'd never have guessed Von Miller and Chris Harris Jr. were each less than 10 months removed from major knee surgery.

After a big week, the wide receivers' focus is sharp as ever. Check out the action at Thursday's practice.

Miller harrassed Cardinals QBs Drew Stanton and Logan Thomas for two sacks and three additional hits while picking up two tackles for loss, after what he said was one of his best weeks of practice of his career.

"I think he's just gotten in better shape, he's recovered from a pretty significant injury and I think each day back, each week back adds to the explosiveness and the strength and his timing and all those things," Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio said of Miller. "He's getting better and better as the year goes on."

Not to be left out, Harris might have been the Broncos' best defensive player on Sunday. He saw seven passes thrown his way and didn't allow a catch, recording three passes defensed (he now has eight through four games) and nearly nabbing an interception or two.

"Chris is just so competitive," Del Rio said. "He's wired in. It's very important to him."

"He's ultra-competitive in everything he does and part of that is preparation. He really understands what's coming, formations and splits, receiver locations, what they do with different guys—he's all over it. He's working hard at that part and that helps him perform on the field."


DeMarcus Ware has made a huge impact on the field so far this season, but he's had an equal effect in the locker room as well, evidenced in part by being voted by his teammates one of two defensive captains.

"I think with DeMarcus it came with him getting here in the offseason and having instant credibility," Del Rio said. "The way he approached it [was] come in here, be a good teammate, learn his role, provide some of that veteran experience and some of the knowledge he has as a pass rusher."

"To be able to share some of that wisdom with the younger guys has been valuable."

Del Rio added that Ware's presence feels like what Elvis Dumervil offered during his time in Denver along the defensive line, albeit a "little bigger version."


After the offense was clicking on all cylinders against a schematically diverse Cardinals' defense, the Broncos would theoretically be ready to deal with another tough defensive coordinator in Rex Ryan. But as Adam Gase pointed out Thursday, Ryan brings extra unpredictability.

"You don't know where anybody's going to be," Gase said of the Jets' defense. "You don't know what Rex is going to do. You walk out there and you could be in four-wide and he's in base defense. You could be in 12-personnel (one running back, two tight ends) and he could be in dime."

"At the end of the day, you have to be able to play ball and adjust to whatever he throws at you and kind of do your thing as well. He's been very successful for a long period of time for a reason."

Gase also noted that Ryan has run more zone coverage than normal this year to compensate for an inexperienced secondary, but that the team's run defense and ability to scheme pressure will be a challenge.


The fact that Emmanuel Sanders hasn't yet scored a touchdown this year despite sitting second in the NFL with 32 catches and third with 435 yards is certainly odd, but obviously not by design.

"I'm aware," Gase said with a laugh. "He's letting me know."

"There's been a couple times when he's been open and we've gone the other way and had some success. Sometimes it's just dumb luck where these guys are as far as what side they're on."

Those who followed last year's record-breaking offense know that touchdowns can come in bunches for the Broncos' weapons. Demaryius Thomas caught five in a three-week span in 2013 after missing the scoresheet in four of five weeks prior. Wes Welker caught eight in his first six games as a Bronco, the same number Julius Thomas had in a seven-week span to start last season. Eric Decker closed the year with eight TDs in five weeks, including a four-touchdown game agains the Chiefs.

"You can't force it," Gase said. "It will happen. He'll get in there eventually."

And when Sanders does get that first score as a Bronco, perhaps the floodgates will open.

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