Davontae Harris, one of three defensive backs in a battle for the third cornerback spot, has a word for what it takes to play a game in front of no fans.
Because integrity is something you have, whether you’re being watched or not. And playing good football whether fans are cheering for you or not is what this Broncos team is going to have to do better than 31 other NFL teams this season to have a “no crowd” advantage.
“That’s integrity - doing the right things even when no one is there,” Harris told Ryan Edwards and Benjamin Allbright on Broncos Country Tonight. “You gotta make plays whether there are 7 people watching or 70,000.”
That unassuming attitude is also how Harris feels about whether this defensive back unit - seemingly much more of a strength for the defense this year - needs a nickname like the No Fly Zone in 2015.
“We don’t need a nickname, we just need an image,” he said. “An image that teams are going to have a hard time putting ball in the air so they better keep it on the ground.”
And Harris believes this defense is on its way to that kind of image, thanks in part to the stiff competition among Harris, De’Vante Bausby and Isaac Yiadom.
“This offseason has been a huge competition,” he said, acknowledging that even though it’s competitive, the three are very tight and have developed a close bond. “We really pick each other up and just try to make each other better.”
Edwards asked how they strike that balance of competing against one another while also supporting improvement among them.
It’s not that hard, Harris said.
“I think it’s easy when there are a lot of good guys around you. You want good for good people,” he said. “We all want a spot here, but as long as we all have the same information, same drive, we just want the best guys here. The best guy wins, but whatever happens, they’re going to be my guys whether we’re here or not.”
Head coach Vic Fangio said Tuesday that he has seen improvement from Harris in “a lot of little areas” that he needs to continue to work on.
“By no means has he mastered it, but he has made a step here in the last week to 10 days of improving his play, a lot of little things,” Fangio said, noting that players like Harris and Duke Dawson Jr. who were acquired after training camp last year were at another disadvantage this year with no offseason training. “The shortened camp still has been an impediment to them, but they’re coming, both of them. I feel better about them than I did when camp started.”
A.J. Bouyé, traded to the Broncos from the Jaguars this offseason, has a lot of respect for Harris’ desire to get better.
“Davontae—one thing I respect about Davontae—he comes to me on an individual basis and just tries to learn everything, whether it’s what I’ve seen from him or what he’s sees from me,” Bouyé said. “Before I came in here, he pulled me aside after practice to get some press work in. You can really appreciate that from someone like him, who no matter if they made the team or not, they’re always willing to work, day in and day out.”
Edwards asked Harris if the defense is starting to get tired of going against their own team yet, and Harris reminded the radio hosts that even if they are, he’s just happy to be playing football - something that wasn’t a guarantee a few months ago.
“We waited seven months for this; I could do this another two or three months,” he laughed. “During the offseason, we weren’t sure there’d be an opportunity. I’m sure guys are tired, but we’re all aware that football could be taken away from us. As long as we’ve got an opportunity to compete, that’s what we’re going to do.”