Chris Harris Jr. has been targeted just six times in three games, so his stat sheet is looking pretty bare - something he’s not used to.
“Me and Von were looking at our stats, and we’re like ‘man, we’ve never seen our stats look like this the first three games ever,’” Harris Jr. said when he joined the “Broncos Country Tonight” crew for their usual Monday night gig at Buffalo Wild Wings. “Teams neutralize me and Von and Chubb. They don’t want us to mess the game up. We’re the game-wreckers on their scouting report, I guess, but we have to find a way to still make our plays.”
But while Harris Jr. didn’t blame the scheme, the coach or the situation, he alluded to weaker defensive line play as a major culprit for teams being able to shut down the play-makers.
Starting off with “teams don’t really have to,” Harris Jr. stopped short and noted that they’re able to “triple team Von, throw away from me and still double-team Chubb.”
Even Aaron Rodgers pointed it out in his post-game presser, throwing a lot of shade toward the Broncos’ defense:
“I have to say this is one of the cleanest games my jersey has ever looked. I took basically one shot. I hit the ground one time. To go home with my body feeling this good is a credit to the offensive line. ...I’m going to have a little scotch and watch some Philly tape.”
And the shade hasn’t gone unnoticed. At least, Harris Jr. is going to make sure it doesn’t go unnoticed, joking that he plans to play that for the defensive line all week.
“I’m making sure the D-linemen see that so they can get mad at me and go get some sacks this week,” he laughed, adding that no one is more frustrated about their play than the linemen. “They’re very frustrated. They know they haven’t played to their level of standard and want to get back to that. We have to be nasty up front. You’ve got to win in the trenches.”
Still, Harris Jr. says he and Von Miller and Bradley Chubb are good enough that they need to figure out how to overcome teams neutralizing them and still impact the game.
Harris Jr. believes one major area of improvement is the first defensive series of the game. Noting that when they’ve started the game on defense, the opponents have been able to just “drive down and score.”
“We have to be the tone-setters,” he said, adding that the first three minutes of the game is crucial. “We haven’t been able to set that tone. The slow starts are killing us. We haven’t won the first quarter. That’s something we need to improve on.”
Ben Allbright pointed out that defense has seemed to win the battle once its opponent is away from the first 15-play script, and CHJ believes that is something to build upon, but he’s not letting his defense off the hook.
“We need to be able to shut them down on that 15-play script too,” he said, recalling a recent season where the defense went five games where it allowed a touchdown on the opening drive. The remedy, he said, was starting out fast. “We just started coming out fast. Get us going early. When you have areas you have issues, you need to fix them early.”
Looking ahead to Jacksonville next weekend, Harris Jr. reminded his hosts that the Broncos can’t afford to think playing a rookie quarterback is going to make this game easier.
“We’re at the point we can’t overlook anybody. We’re 0-3, so we have to treat it like we’re facing a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback and bring our best,” Harris Jr. said. “Because that’s what we need to do, play a full good game as a team.”
Harris Jr. has a few ideas how players can play a full good game and it starts individually.
“You definitely have got to be critical of yourself first to see what you can do to get better to help the team and then figure out how to gel together,” he said. “A lot of times we’re beating ourselves. Turnovers, not having the right reads in the secondary or being able to stop the run, or getting off the field at critical times, starting faster. A lot of things we can improve on. Main thing is we’ve got to stop beating ourselves and play clean football.”
Harris Jr. also made a really interesting point that the defense just “doesn’t have enough talent” right now to overcome mistakes - from the defense, the offense or special teams.
“In the past we’ve had things like that where we did beat ourselves, but we were so good talent-wise and had so many ballers that we could overcome it. We just can’t overcome it,” he said. “Talent-wise we just can’t overcome it compared to the rest of the league. We can’t beat ourselves because we don’t have the margin for error.”
The entire interview is worthwhile as CHJ covers a lot of interesting ground in his 40-minute conversation. Plus, he’s just fun to listen to:
Harris Jr. gives some insight into how guys are adjusting to Fangio as a new head coach:
“I’m trying to buy into it as much as possible, but I can see how it’s an adjustment for a lot of guys on the team. You’ve got to really take care of your body and really be locked in on football. You have to be prepared and know how to be a true professional. And that’s what Fangio is trying to teach guys. It might not happen overnight, but I see what he’s doing and it’s going to happen.”
He also talked about being considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame when there is no stat for “teams throwing away from you.”
“Hopefully they consider that when I’m done, but I get a lot of respect from my peers, so for guys I’ve played with and against, I think they know the kind of player I am.”
Youth on the team:
“It’s a totally new team, so we’ve got to learn how to play together also while trying to learn a new system and play fast. As the season goes on, we’ll get better.”
On helping the young/new guys in the DB room:
“Help them know what to expect from these quarterbacks. I’m screaming on coach to put me on No. 1 receiver so I can take pressure off these guys. They’re still getting experience. Baus, man. He got great ball skills. He has actually has the most experience. He’s won a Super Bowl. He reminds me of DRC just without the 4.3 speed. I like his game and was glad to see him get more reps. Hopefully he’s out there with me this week.”
About his “Coats for a Cause” fundraiser next week to get new/gently used coats to help kids at Denver Children’s Home and Salvation Army:
A few tickets are still available for his fundraiser to provide winter coats for kids in need - Monday, Sept. 30, 6-8 p.m. Drop off new or gently used coats and get 25 percent off a bottle of wine. Go to chrisharrisjr.com to find out how to donate.
On rookie Dalton Risner (and also coming from his rival college, Kansas State):
“He’s a beast man. He was an excellent pick. Definitely a first-round talent. I like Risner, man. Just seeing the way he works, how he plays. He definitely has a bright future. I will put a small friendly wager on Kansas-Kansas State game, but we haven’t beat K-State in a long time so it’s going to be very small.”
On the locker room:
I don’t think there’s any rift in the locker room at all. We love Joe [Flacco]. I love Joe. Since he’s been here, I’ve gotten to know the guy so much more. We know he’s trying to put us in the right position to win. He had like one questionable throw last week, but he’s been solid. He wants to get more aggressive, throw the ball downfield more, take more shots. He said [the young offense] is coming along, and he’s feeling more comfortable every week.”
On his future with the Broncos:
I really don’t know how I fit into the future for [the Broncos]. I really don’t. But I like the way Fangio works. I love Coach Donatell. I wouldn’t be mad about playing for those guys at all.
Message to the fans for Week 4:
“We need ya’ll rockin this week. Especially loud. Rattle the rookie guy. Need it jacked up out there.”