ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --In 2011, cornerback Chris Harris went from an undrafted rookie to a role player on the Denver defense.
In 2012, he became a starter and every-down player.
If the trend continues, who knows what 2013 has in store for Harris?
"I just want to come back next year and make another leap," Harris said. "I'm able to guard anybody and I went against some tough battles this year and I held my own. Next year, I'll be able to do the same, even better."
The 23-year-old seems to have found the recipe for steady improvement. His offseason routine has worked in the two years prior, so he'll approach this one exactly the same. It begins with some time away from the game, rest and relaxation. In a couple months, he'll train by himself in Dallas, where some of his family resides.
"I'm definitely going to take a break mentally and physically," he said. "Around March is when I start getting back into the swing of things. I'm pretty much going to do the same thing I did last offseason. I had great results with what I did in the offseason this year. I'm going to do the same thing and just work a little bit harder."
Harris is coming off a season in which he started 12 games at the corner spot opposite Champ Bailey, while also seeing time at nickel corner and safety. He tied for a team-high three interceptions and was the only cornerback in the league to record multiple interceptions and sacks.
Harris showed shut-down ability by piling up 12 passes defensed and allowing just 400 yards receiving on the year, the third-lowest total in the NFL among players targeted at least 60 times.
The University of Kansas alum also had a nose for the big play, returning two interceptions for touchdowns at clutch moments, including a 98-yarder that was the longest pick-six in franchise history.
"I believe I'm definitely an elite cornerback coming off this season," Harris said. "There aren't too many DB's that can play outside, inside and play safety, just pretty much line up anywhere. I want to continue to develop. Being young, 23, I'm going to continue to grow, continue to improve."
In addition to showing improvement in 2013, Harris wants to take on "a higher level of responsibility." He believes he has earned the right to be a starter on the defense. The next step is to be a leader.
"That's the goal, to be a core guy for this team, to be a leader for this team," Harris said. "(Head) Coach (John) Fox, he just put me in a situation to where I could be a face in this locker room, be a contributor. I just thank them for the opportunity they gave me."