ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --On May 14, the Broncos' coaching staff was suddenly in flux.
Defensive Line Coach Wayne Nunnely retired, leaving an open spot at the position. But Head Coach John Fox wasted little time in promoting former defensive assistant Jay Rodgers to that position.
"He's a young, bright coach," Elvis Dumervil said of Rodgers at the time. "He knows a lot — he's been around. I think he's extremely smart. He's learned a lot from Coach Nunnely as well and I think his future is bright. It was very fortunate to be able to have Coach Rodgers on staff and get him in."
Rodgers worked closely with Nunnely and the defensive line during the 2011 season, which Rodgers said helped the transition. With OTAs and minicamp in the rearview mirror, Rodgers -- a former college quarterback -- sat down with DenverBroncos.com to discuss his new role, his coaching philosophy and what he expects from the defensive line in 2012.
How exciting is this new opportunity for you?
"Very. The reason why you get into this business is to coach football. Obviously this opportunity presented itself to me. (Head) Coach (John) Fox felt like I was a good fit for what (Defensive Coordinator Jack) Del Rio wanted to do with the defense. I accepted that and accepted the challenge to coach these guys up to another level of football, improve these guys to get us to the level we want to get to, which is obviously to compete for a world championship."
How helpful was former Defensive Line Coach Wayne Nunnely in helping you step into your new role?
"It was huge. Obviously, Coach Nunnely is arguably one of the best D-line coaches in the National Football League and has been for a long time. Having him as a mentor over the past couple years has been tremendous for me in my learning process. I look to grow beyond these years and hopefully for a lot of years to come."
What is your coaching philosophy on the defensive line?
"Definitely in the run game we want to be a physical presence up front. If we can take care of the run without using anybody else besides D-linemen, that's what we want to do. It starts with being physical at the point of attack. There are specific techniques that we have that help us, but bottom line we need to get off the ball and strike and separate and be a physical presence. In the passing game, everything starts with the run first. If we stop the run early, it gives us a chance to rush the quarterback and get plays on him. With the passing game aspect of it, it's all about hips, hands and feet and being able to manipulate offensive linemen to think you're doing one thing when you're doing another. Then use our speed and power to get on the edges."
What do you expect from the defensive tackle position this season?
"Obviously with Von (Miller) and Elvis (Dumervil) being dynamic guys on the outside, a lot of teams will use running backs to chip those guys, which makes the inside guys even more important. They need to create not only push up the middle but also be able to work those guards and work the edges with the guards. I know as a D-line coach, the worst position you can put a quarterback in is having people in their lap, because they can't step into throws and it affects the balls. If they can't get to the quarterback, then put their hands up in the air, being able to get balls tipped, which will in turn create interceptions. That obviously helps the whole team. Those guys up front, in between Von and Elvis, are very much important. Plus, you never know when the quarterback gets flushed out, those guys can run him down, too."
Is it exciting for the defensive line coach when the Broncos take a defensive lineman with their first pick in the draft?
"Absolutely. I think everybody gets excited when you pick anybody in your position that you coach. Whether it's a first-rounder or a seventh-rounder, obviously the quality of player is great to have, and you're excited to get started with a guy."
Have any players stood out in your position group that Broncos fans might not be talking about at the moment?
"I think anytime you get a new season, you have to form your identity every year. There have been some guys who we have on our roster right now that have shown some good things, but it's kind of difficult to have a full assessment until you really get the pads on. Defensive lineman and offensive lineman really need to bang each other around in order to show who is boss up there. Sealver Siliga has done a good job in what we've seen so far. Of course you have Vick (Kevin Vickerson), who's been around for a little bit, and Justin Bannan being back here has always been a good addition. Then some of the younger guys are starting to come along. We'll see once we really get into training camp."
With pads being so important, what can linemen get out of non-contact OTAs and minicamps?
"The OTAs are great for hand placement, assignment football and initially getting the fundamentals down. Now, once you get offensive linemen with pads on and they're coming off, that's when you really find out who can really handle the trenches. It's different with pads on than it is without. Some of our guys will stand out and start to separate from others once we get the pads on. Doing it during OTAs is difficult at times just because you don't get the true evaluation of how strong a guy is or how stout he is at the point of attack."
What can fans can expect from Del Rio's defense?
"I'm excited about it. I think he brings the mentality of an attacking-style defense. He's had a lot of years of experience not only as a player but also as a coach. He's seen both sides of the player-coach dynamic and knows exactly what the players are seeing through his eyes. I expect we're going to stop the run on first and second down and we're going to get after the passer on third down. We're going to do it all with the ability to get after that quarterback on all downs."