Since Mike Nolan was named Defensive Coordinator earlier this week, there has been much conjecture about how his track record stacks up against the rest of the NFL and what strategies and personnel Denver will employ in 2009 and the future. One person whose track record needs not be questioned is Joe Collier. Coach Collier employed the 3-4 defense with Denver from the late 70's through 1988, when he was fired by then head coach, Dan Reeves. Joe spent 20 years with Denver after joining the team in 1969 as a position coach.
Yesterday evening, Joe gave a short but extremely informative interview with Clough and Armstrong on The Fan. I came away very excited about some players' futures and very skeptical of others'. Joe sounds like he could still coach. He sounds like he still has passion for coaching defense and building a team. I was very impressed by his ability to make something as complicated as a pro-football defensive scheme seem so straightforward.
Here is the link to the interview: http://www.1043thefan.com/dynamic/podcasts/theSportsGuys/20090114JoeCollier.mp3
The takeaways from the interview are:
- It's an easy transition and Denver's players shouldn't have too hard of a time with it. The Broncos will need a Nose Tackle, but their Linebackers are set up well to employ a 3-4.
- A 3-4 defense isn't a 3-4 defense on any down and distance. On 1st down, 2nd and short, and 3rd and short, Denver will play 3-4. 2nd and long will be a nickel (5 DB's) and 3rd and long will be a dime (6 DB's).
- The Defensive Linemen in a 3-4 are "ego surpressed" meaning that they don't get alot of praise in the system and you have to plan accordingly as a coordinator. Maybe bringing in a big name won't work.
- Elvis Dumervil has some huge potential in a 3-4. Collier moved both Karl Mecklenburg and Simon Fletcher to Linebacker after they both played Defensive End in college and were undersized. Collier thinks Dumervil can be a dangerous pass rusher from the outside especially when you consider that he'd either be blocked by a Running Back or nobody. The only potential downside is if Dumervil can't play a lick of pass defense and gets lost in space in coverage. We'll know soon enough on Dumervil's transition (training camp). In fact, Dumervil could even come in as the Defensive End in 2nd and 3rd and long situations and line up wide of the tackle, creating matchup problems for the Offensive Line. So the big news here is that Dumervil has a real shot at turning into a great hybrid/flex Linebacker/Defensive End in a 3-4.
- Collier's not sure if Denver has anyone who can play Nose Tackle. They're tough to find. When Marcus Thomas' name was brought up by The Fan, Collier wasn't sure if he would fit the bill. You can't simply put weight on Thomas and expect that he maintain his signature quickness. This makes me assume that Denver adds a Nose Tackle through the draft and potentially Free Agency.
In the end, I thought it was a great interview, and it was just long enough to keep my ADD under wraps. I came away from the interview thinking, "Collier could still coach. I can't believe Shanahan never tapped him for at very least some insight or perspective". Maybe McDaniels will tap Joe or his son, Joel, who is the secondary coach in New England. The interview made me realize how talented the Broncos staff has been in the past and also got me excited for the changes to come.