ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Jurrell Casey has no questions about why the Broncos dealt a seventh-round pick to acquire him in March.
For nearly a decade, the former third-round pick has been a dominant presence along the defensive line — and the five-time Pro Bowler knows expectations for his play have not changed as he enters Year 10.
"They brought me here to Denver to help this defense stay on top," Casey said Tuesday, "and that's what I [plan to] continue to do."
Casey's impact on the Broncos' defense should be twofold. From a leadership perspective, the two-time Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year and long-time team captain should have instant credibility in the locker room. He spoke Tuesday about the need for he and his teammates along the defensive line to stay after practice for extra work, and he's already answered questions from several of the Broncos' younger players.
"I'm stepping in to try to be a leader of this team," Casey said. "That's all I know, that's all I've been built around, is strong leader qualities. I can't let that change now that I'm somewhere different. I just ask that the guys allow me to come in and step in that role also. These guys have definitely opened their arms so far. They've been picking my brain. They've been trying to ask a lot of questions, and that shows these guys have a lot of confidence in my expertise and my ability around the league."
From a football standpoint, the transition should be similarly seamless. Casey likened Vic Fangio's scheme to the style that long-time defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau implemented in Tennessee in 2016 and 2017. The Titans' rushing defense ranked in the top five in the NFL in both of those seasons, and Casey earned a pair of Pro Bowl appearances.
"I've played in [a similar defense] before and excelled in it," Casey said. "The biggest thing is it allows me to use my athletic ability. I get to move around guys, I get to use my quickness. It allows you to get those centers and those guards off balance when they're doing their pull plays and their reach blocks. This defense is definitely a strong suit for me. I think there shouldn't be any challenges at all moving forward."
When training camp begins, we'll learn officially where Casey will line up most on the defensive line, but he said he'll put in work at a variety of spots to give the team flexibility. In Tennessee, Casey played both at the nose tackle position and defensive end spot.
"If you're a defensive lineman, you love the three technique," said Casey, referring to when the defender lines up over the guard's outside shoulder. "That's where all the money's being made at. That's definitely my favorite spot, but I take pride in being able to play all three positions: being able to play the end [at the five technique], the three[-technique] and the one[-technique]. When you've got that capability, when guys go down [or] someone gets hurt, coaches can call on your name to go out there and fill another position in. You've got to be able to do it with a high standard. I try to do as much as I can every day in practice learning each position, getting reps at each position and make sure I'm excelling at all three."
Casey said he'll get a better feel for the team's scheme and the play calls over the coming weeks as they begin full-speed practices, but he already has a sense of chemistry with Von Miller. The two have been at the Pro Bowl together each year since 2016.
"I think the biggest thing that helped us a lot is being at the Pro Bowl for multiple years together," Casey said. "That already showed us that we were able to work together and then coming here, like I said before, when things get called out there, we don't have to say really too much. We just look at each other and we understand what one another needs. When you can build that type of chemistry and don't have to really talk on the field, it makes [the] game move a lot faster."
As they aim to perfect the team's pass rush ahead of a Sept. 14 opener against Casey's former team, they'll devote extra time to make sure they work well in tandem.
"The biggest thing is just going to be work after practice," Casey said. "[You have to] get the work in that you need in [and] practice as much as you can together, but it's going to have to have time after practice. That's when you start clicking. You start working on things that you're not able to work on in practice. As long as we both buy into that type of work ethic, we're definitely going to excel."
That's what the Broncos expect of Casey — and it's undoubtedly what he expects of himself.