Coming into 2017, the defensive line was a major weakness for the Denver Broncos, an area of much attention in the offseason.
John Elway signed Domato Peko and Zach Kerr in free agency, and drafted DeMarcus Walker in the second round. Add in the development of Adam Gotsis, who Denver drafted last year in the second round, and Denver certainly had a plan to overhaul the defensive interior.
While most of those moves have yielded very positive results in shoring up Denver’s defensive trenches, the unheralded move of signing Shelby Harris to a futures contract in January, while not of particular significance at the time, has turned out to be just as impactful as any of the moves listed above.
With a sack (-6 yds) & run stuff (-5 yds), Broncos DL @ShelbyHarris93 with a tackle for a loss on back-to-back 1st qtr MIA possessions.— Patrick Smyth (@psmyth12) December 3, 2017
Since being drafted by the Raiders in the seventh round in 2014, Harris has been cut and re-signed to four different practice squads, before finally bursting onto the scene this preseason for the Broncos.
After making the final roster out of camp, Harris made an impact early, blocking the potential game-winning field goal against the Chargers in Denver’s first regular season game.
Since then, he has been solid run stopping force on a much improved Denver run defense, logging 50 percent of the defensive snaps (nearly equal with Gotsis), and chipping in 3.5 sacks in the passing game.
Shelby Harris sets up Incognito by beating the drum. Then Harris wins w/ hand placement & walks Incognito back #Broncos pic.twitter.com/9vfVohGDxV— DLineVids (@DLineVids) September 24, 2017
Pro Football Focus credits Harris with an 80.8 overall grade, including an 82.6 in run defense.
A restricted free agent this off-season, he carries a team friendly price tag, which should encourage Denver to retain his services for 2018.
In a season with not much to cheer about, the arrival of Shelby Harris with some much needed help on the interior is one of the things Broncos fans can get excited about.
With Derek Wolfe moving to injured reserve, Harris will get even more opportunities to show what he’s got over the final four games of the season as Coach Joseph has confirmed that he’ll assume Wolfe’s starting role.
Joseph praise Harris’ improvement this year and credits the progress to Denver’s resident bear wrestling defensive line coach, Bill Kollar.
“Bill is a great coach. He’s brought guys here who have been just OK players, then they’ve become good players. You watch what [DE] Shelby Harris has done from the spring until now. You watch what Kerr has done from the spring until now. That’s Bill Kollar’s touch and the players work ethic to put up with Bill and to overcome that hard coaching to become a good player. It’s good to see.”
Eric Goodman and Les Shapiro sat down with Shelby Harris yesterday in an interview about the opportunity in front of him moving forward. Check it out at the 12:45 mark.