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Mason's Mailbag: Shelby Harris fits well up front

#AskMase Lifelong Illinois State and Broncos fan here, so Shelby Harris is my default favorite Bronco. Given his raise and the departure of Domata Peko Sr., how important of a role do you expect Shelby to play in the defense this season? How does he fit in Fangio's defensive style?

-- Dylan Conner (@Dzaster309 on Twitter)

Monday, he deflected a Joe Flacco pass at the line of scrimmage, and he's been difficult to dislodge on the interior of the defensive line. He is a perfect fit because he has the stoutness to work at nose tackle, but the athleticism and flexibility to play the other spots on the defensive line -- an essential trait for playing up front in Fangio's scheme.

I am not panicking over the offense, new OC/scheme, new OL coach, new QB, missing Emmanuel Sanders going up against a stacked D that's been together, for the most part, a number of years coached by a mastermind. That said, at what point does it become a concern — after preseason game 3 or 4? #askmase

-- @nfljunky1013 via Twitter

The third preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers will come after two days of joint practices with them, so at that point the Broncos will have had five days of work against other teams -- preseason games against the Falcons, Seahawks and 49ers and those two practice sessions. If the offense hasn't made strides by then, then it will be fair to have some concern.

Also note that if the Los Angeles Rams follow their preseason protocol from last year, you will see few, if any, of their starters in the fourth preseason game. Rams head coach Sean McVay said in April that it is "very likely" that they will "approach the preseason very similar to what we did last year." So anything positive for the No. 1 offense in that game will likely come with a grain of salt.

The question of how soon Drew Lock could see play time has been asked quite a bit, but how long could Joe Flacco hold off the rookie with great play? A wild-card spot this year, a playoff win next, etc.; could he play so well that Lock would sit his rookie contract?

-- Stephen Phelps

If Flacco plays well and the team succeeds, he could certainly play out the three years left on his contract -- and perhaps earn another deal beyond that. Should the Broncos get back to regular postseason contention and Flacco return to his 2010-14 form, you could see him enduring as the quarterback through 2021 and perhaps beyond. 

That said, if Lock matures and grows into a quarterback who shows indications that he can be a long-term answer, it would be no surprise if the Broncos turn to him. Flacco's contract is effectively year-to-year, since it has no guarantees remaining. In the best-case scenario, it's similar to Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers; Favre was still playing at a high level in 2007, Rodgers' third year as a backup. But Rodgers' progress was undeniable and the Packers had to provide him the opportunity to start, a chance that he has maximized since 2008.

What's the reason for not putting names on jerseys during training camp?

-- David Stilson

Well, there's the cost and labor involved with that; that is an extra step for the equipment department, which is already busy. But one reason I like not having names on the jerseys is that it reduces latent bias.

If you affix the name plates, the brain might recall something that player did at a previous stop, either in college or the NFL. You take the name off, and the player is just a number. It's a small thing and it works in the subconscious, but I feel that it makes for a more candid evaluation that is focused on what the player does now, not the lines on his resume from previous stops.

This is a reason why coaches sometimes refer to players on other teams by their jersey number rather than their name. If you say, "Khalil Mack," you start thinking of five sacks in one 2015 game against the Broncos and his Defensive-Player-of-the-Year season in 2016. If you say, "52," you bring him down to the level of other players.

I also like the notion that the player must earn the name on the back of the jersey; if it were up to me, there wouldn't be names on jerseys until the regular season.

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