The Denver Broncos are 10 games into the season, and yet, it seems they’re still searching for an identity – at least from the outside looking in.
But that apparently isn’t the case if you’re actually a Denver Bronco.
“I think people know what (our identity) is,” Denver defensive back Chris Harris Jr. said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I think they know that we’re going to play stout defense. We just got to get consistent on offense and the run game and then (get) consistency on stopping the run. I think those are the two things we’ve really been having a point of emphasis on. Once we get those (things) rolling, it’s going to be tough for teams to beat us.”
Denver had perhaps the best defense in NFL history last year. It’s hard to replicate that the very next season.
“We were playing at a historic level last year on defense,” Harris said. “We’re on the bye now. We’re looking at our numbers and we’re just a little bit behind those. We figure if we can get back to stopping the run (and forcing) more turnovers – right now we have more turnovers than what we had last year. Right now, we’re just trying to do whatever we can on the defensive side to be able to get the offense more opportunities. We feel like they’re going to get better. This is a good time for them to kind of turn on that switch and start dominating on offense.”
Indeed, Denver ranks just 24th in the league in both passing and rushing. Nevertheless, the Broncos have won three of four, including a miraculous 25-23 win in New Orleans this past Sunday. The Saints were attempting a go-ahead extra point, which Justin Simmons blocked and Will Parks took to the house for the decisive two points.
Not bad for a couple of rookies.
“We’re still very hungry and a motivated team,” Harris said. “You could see last week, that game went down to the wire. We kept believing, we kept fighting and young rookies come up and make one of (the best) plays of the season. This team still is going to fight. We’re not going to let people take our championship so easily. They’re going to have to fight for it and take it from us.”
Harris also praised Wade Phillips for his leadership and dedication to the defense. The 69-year-old defensive coordinator was carted off the field during a 27-19 win over San Diego on Oct. 30, this after getting unintentionally run over by Melvin Gordon.
“He gives us an identity on defense,” Harris said of Phillips. “He’s very important to that. I think even versus the Raiders, having him in the box, that affected us on defense too, just him not being on the field. You can see last week we played a lot better having him there. His knowledge, he’s a genius. He makes it easy for us to go out there and make plays.”
Offensively, Trevor Siemian has been adequate, but don’t be surprised if Paxton Lynch gets an opportunity down the line.
“I think Paxton is definitely improving. He’s continuing to learn the offense,” Harris said. “I still think he needs a little bit more time to be able to understand other defenses, to continue to keep learning the offense. I think it takes a year to really truly learn this offense (with) everything that we do. So I give him this year, but you never know. He still always has to be ready, and we still feel like we can win if he has to go in and play.”
Denver has a tough schedule down the stretch, with two games against Kansas City (7-2), one against Oakland (7-3) and one against New England (7-2).
The divisional games will likely decide the AFC West.
“Every year it’s a tight race since I’ve been in the league,” said Harris, who went undrafted in 2011. “We’ve been able to come out on top in it, and we’ve got six games left to be able to really control our own destiny. We’ve got the Chiefs twice and the Raiders, so we’ve got some big games coming up. But we feel like this is still our division. . . . That’s what makes it competitive. We’ve won it five years in a row, so you know teams are going to definitely gun for us. That’s what we like, though. I love how Jack (Del Rio) has boosted the Raiders and how the Cheifs have really stepped up their game. The Chargers, they’ve been good for a while. Those two teams really caught up to us, and it’s really making the AFC West pretty fun.”
Harris also addressed the legal headaches surrounding Von Miller, who is currently being extorted by a woman in possession of a sex tape that they created.
“With everything going on in the world, you definitely have to be careful, especially being a professional athlete,” Harris said. “Guys have to be smart with decisions and what they do. It’s unfortunate that a girl tries to extort a man for $2.5 million. That’s very unfortunate, but I think Von will win the case. I think everything will be all right.”