ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Wade Phillips no longer has a desk at UCHealth Center. Neither does Joe Woods. The days of press man coverage and the onus of victory riding on the secondary are over.
If you couldn't tell by the Broncos' situation with Chris Harris Jr., the Broncos have adopted a different philosophy under new coach Vic Fangio. They are no longer obsessed with cornering the market, so to speak, on the top defensive backs. Over the last two seasons, the Broncos traded Aqib Talib, let Bradley Roby walk in free agency and remain far apart on a contract extension for Harris, who is skipping off-season workouts and training in Dallas with his crew of specialists as he seeks a new deal.
Of course Fangio wants strong cornerbacks. However, he relies more on zone coverage than the previous scheme, increasing the value of versatility. The Broncos signed defensive back Kareem Jackson, pictured, to a three-year, $33-million contract with $23 million guaranteed. Harris wants $15 million per season, complicating his situation following the additions of Jackson and corner Bryce Callahan (three-year, $21 million contract, $10 million guaranteed). Jackson has been playing safety with slot corner reps sprinkled in, leaving Callahan and second-year pro Isaac Yiadom on the outside.
"If I had to choose one, safety is fun just because I get a chance to kind of see everything that’s going on and just kind of run and hit people. For me, it’s just all about changing my mindset. Just knowing when I’m in the slot, knowing where my help is depending on what call we’re in. At safety, obviously getting guys in the right call and stuff like that. That’s just pretty much what it is for me," said Jackson, who played large chunks at safety for Houston last season and is known for his physical tackling style. "I was never told one specific role. I was told I was going to bounce around a little bit like I did last year. I was looking forward to that. That’s one of my strengths, playing multiple positions. I feel like that can help us as a defense on Sundays."
Jackson was asked if he felt like he was in the middle of the Harris talks by proxy. Um, no, he said.
Like all teammates before him, he prefers Harris remain with the Broncos, while understanding the NFL is a business.
“We definitely want Chris to be here," Jackson said. "He’s a big-time player in this league.”
Center of attention
No one was asked about mentoring Thursday. However, Connor McGovern admitted departed free agent Matt Paradis was his during Paradis' stay in Denver. Understand, offensive lines work as dance partners — one moves and others follow. Paradis helped McGovern as he began his career as a guard. McGovern replaced Paradis last November after the veteran broke his leg. He played well, but lacked consistency. Paradis told Denver7 on Thursday that McGovern is ready for the full-time role.
"He's already started and played a lot. I am excited for him to get the opportunity to stay at one position and put all his focus on that," Paradis said. "He's a very, very smart guy. He will do well."
It doesn't hurt that he's playing for offensive line coach Mike Munchak. With apologies to the free agents, Munchak, for me, remains the team's most important offseason addition.
"Munchak is fantastic. He gets it. There are a lot of coaches that played a couple of years in the league or played college ball and got hurt and then got into coaching. He’s a Hall of Famer. He’s seen every look. He’s played against great guys. He knows what it takes to beat anybody," McGovern said. "He played against fantastic defensive linemen. Just his knowledge of the game and the little nuances that a lot of O-Linemen don’t event see and definitely the everyday person wouldn’t see, he’s so good at. The base technique, he really hammers that home and to a way where we all understand it because it literally applies perfectly because he’s used that in a lot of games."