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Harris Jr. - Woods will take Broncos D ‘from level two to level three’

The Pro-Bowl cornerback is expecting even bigger things from himself and the Broncos defense this season.

Carolina Panthers v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Watch out, Von MillerChris Harris Jr. might be coming at your sacks total next season.

You heard that right.

One of the Founding Fathers of the No Fly Zone is itching to spread his wings as a sack master.

“Hopefully I am blitzing more. Hopefully I get to get some more sacks like I did my first your years,” Harris Jr. said Monday about changes under Joe Woods as new defensive coordinator. “I was very active in the run, getting sacks and playing the ball, so hopefully I’ll be able to do it all this year.”

Harris Jr. isn’t trying to be selfish; he just wants to do more for this team. After getting 2.5 sacks his second year and another one his fourth year, No. 25 is ready to add some more on that stats column.

“I want to be active. I want to be able to show everything that I can do,” he added. “I can blitz. I can cover. I can play zone and play man. I can do it all. I want to add everything to my game.”

The seventh-year corner, who has had been a cornerstone of the No Fly Zone with Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart, noted that this group is only going to be stronger as they head into their third and fourth years together – a rarity in today’s NFL.

“To be able to have that chemistry right there, we can learn very fast together. That is a big plus,” he said.

The Broncos defense has had a strong foundation the past few years under Wade Phillips who took a crew from “talented” to “menacing” almost immediately, but Harris Jr. believes Woods can help them go beyond that.

“[Woods] getting elevated to the D-Coordinator, I think it is a perfect fit for us and what we’re trying to do,” he said.

Harris Jr. indicated the Broncos became too predictable last season and other teams were able to script their first 15 plays to mitigate what the Broncos defense did well and take advantage of the D’s often slow starts.

“Now, I think Joe and them are going to be way more prepared going into this [season] because these teams keep repeating the same type of plays versus us,” said the cornerback, noting that Woods is adding some new stuff too. “We’re doing a lot of things that we have done in the past, but we’re kind of adding more wrinkles and taking it to another level. With Wade [Phillips] we were on Level 2 on a lot of things, but now we are on Level 3 on some coverages.”

That’s a serious compliment given the Broncos had the No. 1 defense against the pass two years in a row and were the NFL’s best overall defense under Phillips during the 2015-16 Super Bowl run.

“We already had what we were very good at, but we’re adding on, taking another level,” Harris Jr. said, noting that it’s nothing this defense can’t handle. “We’re smart enough for the whole group to take it to the next level and not have mental mistakes. That’s what other teams in this league can’t do. They can’t keep learning new stuff.”

No doubt a huge part (pun intended) of improving the Broncos’ elite defense will be getting back to a run-stuffing defensive line. With over 600 pounds in new linemen via Domata Peko and Zach Kerr, CHJ thinks the Broncos are on the right track.

“We just didn’t have enough beef. We weren’t big enough,” Harris Jr. said of last season, noting that with more size and some changes on their fronts, the run defense is not going to be a liability. “I think our run defense is going to be so much better now. They’re going to have to throw the ball now. They’re going to have to throw to us, so I think that we’ll have more chances to get more picks too.”

But the No Fly Zone knows it can’t let up either, which is why Harris Jr.’s goal each year is to get better at something.

“I just try to take my game to another level every year. I try to find something that I can improve on,” he said, noting the defense cut 10 yards off its average allowed per game in passing last season compared to the year prior. “If we can cut to 175 [yards passing allowed], that would be amazing. I think it’s possible though. I’m not going to say that we can’t do that.”

Which is why continuing to add All-Pros to the defense while continuing to play at that level is part of Harris Jr.’s personal agenda.

“I know that if I am playing at an All-Pro level, our defense is playing [well]. That is really what it comes down to. If I’m playing bad, then I know we’re not winning a lot of games and we’re definitely not No. 1 in the pass defense,” he said. “It definitely counts on me to play well with Aqib and everybody else.”

And even thought that No Fly Zone is dominant, CHJ is never against adding a corner or two to the mix via the upcoming draft – but he also thinks the team already has the next No Fly guy.

“I think [Lorenzo] Doss is ready to take that next step. He’s been under us and learning,” Harris Jr. said of the second-year corner out of Tulane. “He came in and played solid when he got a chance last year. He got his hands on a couple balls and he’s a ball-rat. He is always around the football, even in training camp and things like that. I think Doss can definitely step up and be that fourth corner this year.”

While No. 25 isn’t too concerned about the offensive side of the ball, he definitely believes the new coordinators on that side will be beneficial, perhaps most to Paxton Lynch who no longer has to deal with an offense completely different from what he did in college.

“Mike McCoy’s offense will help him a lot more. …Paxton was in a spread offense and he comes right here and there is no prototype offense like Gary Kubiak’s,” Harris Jr. said, adding that a lot of offenses in the league don’t run Kubiak’s offenses. “He came in with a tough offense to learn, so I think Mike McCoy’s will be a lot more like he ran in college.”

But with a more pass-happy offense that takes advantage of Pro-Bowl wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, Harris Jr. pointed out perhaps the bigger weakness than young quarterbacks – the running game – when he was asked how he’d game plan a defense against the Broncos’ offense.

“Try to take away ‘D.T.’ and ‘E’ fast,” Harris Jr. said without hesitation. “Those are our top explosive receivers. I’d try to make our tight ends beat us and our running backs.”

So perhaps that’s why CHJ definitely hinted at a particular Stanford running back when asked about who the Broncos should draft.

“I like play-makers. I want a play-maker on defense or offense, a guy that’s going to put up some points or a guy that’s going to change the game,” he said. “We definitely need a guy that can play running back, receiver and returner. Any guy that can do that, I would definitely love him.”


Taking Von Miller out of the equation, who will be the team’s next highest sack leader this season?

This poll is closed

  • 83%
    Shane Ray
    (834 votes)
  • 5%
    Derek Wolfe
    (59 votes)
  • 8%
    Shaquil Barrett
    (87 votes)
  • 0%
    Chris Harris Jr.
    (7 votes)
  • 0%
    T.J. Ward
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    Domata Peko
    (2 votes)
  • 1%
    (11 votes)
1004 votes total Vote Now