Editor's note: DenverBroncos.com sat down with the assistant coaches to talk about their position groups before the coaches left Dove Valley for vacations in mid-June.
*It's your first year as secondary coach for the Broncos, but you worked with Jack in the same role in Jacksonville, so is it an easier adjustment already knowing what he expects? *"I was here last year with him, too (as defensive quality control), but obviously having coached the DBs for him for three years (in Jacksonville), I know what he expects. He has a good feel for my coaching style, so it's a pretty easy transition. I know most of those guys who are in the room and have been around those guys, so it's pretty smooth."
Did you work more with the DBs than with any other position last year during your role as defensive quality control?"No, I worked mostly with the defensive line last year, with (defensive line coach) Jay Rodgers. I did have a presentation on Saturday mornings, so I ended up talking to the DBs, but most of it was with the D-line. But you're in the room with those guys all the time, so I got to know most of them."
The team brought in a couple of veterans in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Quentin Jammer. What do they add to your group?"They're two veteran players who have played a lot and played at a high level. Anytime you can make the room deeper, you win. They're both doing a heck of a job. Jammer is kind of a different situation because he got here and we were already practicing, so he was hearing it for the first time on the run. He's been in here meeting with me in the mornings, so he's starting to pick it up. I'm fired up to have him. Dominique's done a phenomenal job. He's obviously a good player, he's going to help us. They're both obviously good players and depth – that's a big one, it's nice."
How important is versatility in your group – to have a guy like Quentin Jammer who can play corner-safety or a guy like Chris Harris Jr. who can slide around?"Huge. It just gives you more options. If you play different packages, guys can slide around. Quentin's kind of learning a new spot, but he understands the game and he knows how to do it. We're going to try to help him play safety, but you get into the season and you lose someone with an injury at any position, it's huge to have someone to fill in. And then you have Chris who's obviously played all three spots and has played them at a high level. Anytime you have players who can do that, it's very valuable."
What makes Chris Harris so good at moving around like that?"I think, first of all, his competitiveness. The guy just competes at a very high level. It doesn't matter what position you play him. Heck, you could probably play him at linebacker. He's not big enough for linebacker, but he'd probably make it work somehow. He's just a competitive guy who wants to win. It's why he's been on the field ever since he's been here. He's an undrafted kid who loves the game and is very, very smart. He understands routes and understands how the game works, so I think that allows him to play the game at a higher level and he'll be effective."
How will the battles with Wes Welker in practice help Harris in game situations?"I think it'll help both of them. Obviously, for Chris, you couldn't ask for a better situation than to line up and play against one of the best slot receivers in the league – if not the best in the league – on a daily basis. It just gives him more confidence. Even because of the things that Wes can do with his short area of quickness – Chris is already pretty good at that, but Wes makes Chris compete at a whole different level as well. And I'd assume that if you asked Wes that, he'd say the exact same thing. So that kind of competition for both of them only makes both of them better and, in turn, makes us better."
How does the offense in general help your secondary's development?"Every one of our guys in the back is getting tested and they're competing at a very high level every single day. Especially with this tempo that they're doing, they're not stopping. I think if you asked any of those guys, they wouldn't want it any other way. It's very fortunate to be in that situation."
How does having a future Hall of Famer in Champ Bailey helped the younger guys?"I think that's just a natural progression for him, being that type of leader. He's been that way his entire career. He's been great in meetings. I can ask him questions in the meetings like, 'Champ, is this how you see this playing?' With his knowledge and his experience, it's like having another coach in the room. Obviously he's out there competing against those guys, too. It's been good. He's a leader in the classroom and on the field just by his approach to the game and what he's done."
Your group has a lot of depth, with guys like Tony Carter, Omar Bolden, and Kayvon Webster. What will the competition look like for those guys in training camp?"A very tough competition. Those guys all know it. Jack (Del Rio) stated in the first meeting that every position is up for grabs. Nobody's names are written in there yet. When you have depth like that, it creates competition. We'll see how it all falls together. Tony's going to help us, he's already helped us. He's doing a heck of a job. Omar Bolden is playing more inside this year in the nickel spot and is doing a great job. The safety position is still wide open. You've got four guys back there who have played. With Quentin Jammer and Quinton Carter in the mix, you've got another group of guys back there who are trying to battle to put their name on that thing, too. It's been fun, and obviously when you have a situation like that with good depth, it just drives everyone – both in meetings and on the field. It's been a good start. That's what it is – a start. I've been very pleased with everything those guys have been doing. The way they come out, work, play, and prepare in meetings."
It's early, but what have you seen out of Kayvon Webster so far?"He's done a heck of a job. Obviously the kid can run, he's got good feet. Anytime you get someone new like a Quentin or a Kayvon that are coming in, they're basically learning a second language. Especially coming from college to the NFL. I think that's been Kayvon's biggest hurdle and it still will be. We're done installing right now, so I think he'll continue to play faster. We didn't give him any relief, either. We put him at the third nickel right now, so that's got another language in itself. As he learns every defense, he's learning two positions – outside and inside. I see a lot of upside in the kid. He's fast, he's got good feet, and he can catch it, so he's a nice, nice addition. He's part of that competitive group."
Has Webster latched on as a student of Bailey yet?"He made sure he sat right next to Champ in the meetings. Champ obviously is going to help anyone he can help, especially in our room. I think he talked to Kayvon on the phone right after he got drafted. Kayvon understands the game and he understands the situation that he's in, especially now to be with a guy like Champ and Dominique and now you've got Quentin Jammer in there. You've got three guys who have been in the league a long time. What an opportunity for that kid to be in that room and learn from three very, very successful players."
In what ways have you seen growth out of Omar Boldin, who didn't play a lot on defense last year but saw some time on special teams?"I think anytime you're in a system for the second time, which is a bonus for anyone – it helps him. I think it's confidence in the system, and you'd hope confidence out of any second-year player that is in the mix to play a lot. You're going to see some growth. He's done a heck of a job in the weight room with (Strength and Conditioning Coach) Luke (Richesson). He's been on top of his stuff. He's a sharp guy as far as his defensive terminology and stuff. He understands how to play the nickel. To be competent about playing the nickel and everything involved there, as well as to get up and play on the outside, I think his confidence level has gone up tremendously. Once you do it twice, you're good. You draft a corner in Kayvon and then you bring in Aaron Hester, the free agent kid we got from UCLA, you're in the middle of the depth chart right there. You're counting numbers and there's only so many spots. I think that's added motivation for him right there."