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Not letting his stars off the hook, Fangio sees room for improvement in Von Miller, Chris Harris Jr.

The new head coach knows the two veterans are elite - but he thinks they have more to give.

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NFL: Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

We made it, Broncos Country!

Practices for the 2019 Training Camp officially begin today, and head coach Vic Fangio is clearly anxious to get down to work and put the Denver Broncos back on a championship course.

“A winning identity. That is what we are here for, we’ve got to win games,” Fangio said Wednesday. “But, I’d like for it to be a team that obviously plays hard, plays smart, plays intelligent, plays good in crunch time and the critical times of a game and knows how to play in situational football. Those are some of the things.”

If the team does those things, it will already result in a huge improvement over the previous season, so Fangio is on to something here.

But the new head coach understands that training camp is all part of the offseason learning process that culminates with getting in football shape as well as putting the playbook into practice.

“We are still in the learning process, learning our assignments, learning our techniques and executing them, and we need to be able to build our endurance to playing football,” Fangio said, noting that being able to play a three-hour game takes time. “We need to get calloused to playing football — getting calloused to playing with your pads on, carry your pads, etc. ...We are going to be learning, not only our systems, but situations — how to play and react from A to Z.”

And as Fangio has been hinting since he came to Denver, no player is exempt from that learning process.

Not Von Miller.

Not Chris Harris Jr.


Noting that both superstars - and also the longest tenured veterans on the squad - can improve in their play, Fangio gave Miller a rare compliment...but only after mentioning that the ninth-year edge rusher needs to play better.

“I think he’s got more to give. I think we can make him be a better player. He’s got to make himself be a better player,” Fangio said before rephrasing that the coaches need to be a better “resource” for him. “I think he has more in him that he can even be better and better. He is a guy that should be in the mention for player of the year award and stuff like that. If we can get him to improve to do all the little things correctly, not that he hasn’t in the past, but improve it and just become a little bit better.”

Fangio has liked Miller’s openness to needing to improve.

“With a guy with his talent level, a little bit ends up being a lot. I am very excited, loved working with him up to this point,” Fangio said. “He has been very receptive and I’m looking forward to the season with him.”

And there was no argument from Miller about what he needed to do this season.

I’ve got a lot to give. I haven’t won Defensive Player of the Year one time; I haven’t led the league in sacks one time. There’s a lot that I’ve got to give,” he said. “I feel like I’m a coach’s dream — whatever they tell me to do, I feel like I can do it. Whether that is coverage or rushing the pass or the running game, if you coach me on a point, I’ll be able to do it, I’ll be able to remember it in a game. I just try to stay [hungry].”

Fangio’s praise for Harris Jr., who held out of most of the voluntary offseason training until he had an acceptable contract, was a little less enthusiastic but still positive - for Fangio.

“[Chris] is going to have to dive in and really learn the ins and outs of what we are doing because he missed a couple of months of that,” Fangio said, noting he missed a month in the classroom and a couple months on the field. “He’s got two positions to learn, not just one. The nickel position is totally different than the corner position — there is no carry over, mentally. So, he’s got a lot of work to do in these next five weeks, six—whatever it is.”

Fangio added that he and defensive coordinator Ed Donatell haven’t yet determined all the defensive back packages, but with three guys playing “high-level” nickel - Harris Jr., Kareem Jackson and Bryce Callahan - Fangio believes he has the players who can execute his scheme.

“We had an excellent offseason, and I am excited about the guys we have to work with on that side of the ball,” Fangio said, adding there are still some positions to figure out, such as the defensive line starters and how the secondary will line up. “I think we have some versatility. We’ve got three good players that have played nickel at a high level in this league, and that is highly unusual.”

The new head coach noted that while some say to just put “your best players out there” regardless of position, he is more interested in getting the perfect combination of players for your scheme.

“I’ve often heard people say, put your best players out there or put your five-best [offensive] linemen out on the field,” Fangio said. “What if your backup guard is really your fifth best offensive linemen, but he can only play guard? What are you supposed to do, put him at tackle where he is no good? We need the best combination. That’s what we have to work through.”

Harris Jr. says he has been in the playbook all offseason, and he likes how he fits in the new scheme.

“I think I’m able to do a variety of things on the outside. We still play a lot of man. We’ve got a lot of zone that I haven’t gotten to play in a while, which I think is going to definitely help me out, just not having a hard down every time,” Harris Jr. said. “I think I fit it perfectly. You go into the slot, a lot of that stuff in the slot I’ve already done in my career. He’s been able to use me a lot more in there. I like it so far.”

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