DENVER — The Broncos officially have their new cornerback.
On Wednesday afternoon, nearly at the same minute Chris Harris Jr. fled to the Los Angeles Chargers, Denver’s trade for A.J. Bouye officially went down.
Not only did John Elway replace one Pro-Bowl cornerback with another, but he replaced the former long-time Bronco with a very similar player and person. And that might not be a coincidence as Harris Jr. and Bouye are close friends.
“Chris got some of the best footwork I’ve ever seen,” the new Bronco told Denver media on Wednesday, detailing how he and Harris worked out together during past offseasons in Dallas.
“He definitely has a great work ethic. That’s one of the things I learned from him early. At the end of workouts, I would go over there and watch film with him. I spent time with him and his daughters and we became close like family. I learned a lot from him how to act off the field and work ethic.”
The work ethic Bouye learned from Harris Jr. is already showing.
“Already into the playbook,” Bouye said, detailing how he’s already studying Vic Fangio’s scheme. “That’s one thing that I’ve been studying a lot — seeing a lot of guys out there just standing out making plays. I’m definitely excited to join that … Try to make plays. That’s one of the reasons I fit into this scheme of the defense that I’m studying. I’m definitely excited from what I see of it.”
Another similarity between the two friends, not commonly found at the cornerback position, is their willingness to attack the ball carrier.
“I’m a physical corner. You know I’ll come up and tackle,” Bouye said with haste. “I’m always playing the run game. I feel like what makes me best is my instincts. I study the game. I study all the time.”
Noticing a theme with Bouye? He’s always studying. Teacher Harris would be proud. And much like Chris, A.J. will have studs surrounding him in the secondary and in the front seven getting after the quarterback.
“You know they’ve got a great front. From what I’ve seen, they definitely were good in the run… And then Chubb coming back this year, it’s just going to get that more dangerous,” Bouye said, breaking down the tape of his new team. “When you have safeties like that on the back end who will make plays on the ball but also come up and be physical in the run game, it just makes everything that much better when your DBs are all moving and can be aggressive and get their eyes to the ball and see things.”
“When you’re playing with some safeties in the back end like that and a front like that — that’s coming — it’s going to be easy. The clock in that head of the quarterback is much faster. It’s definitely something I’m definitely looking for with that.”
It’s hard to ignore the similarities between the Broncos’ new cornerback and their former one, including high praise from the main boss.
“He’s a great fit in Vic’s system with his instincts, ball skills, toughness and ability to play in a defense that mixes coverages,” John Elway told DenverBroncos.com, speaking on his new cornerback. “In addition to having the size on the outside to match up against larger receivers, A.J. is an excellent tackler. He’s a complete cornerback who gives us what we need in both pass coverage and against the run.”
But there’s one glaring difference between the two that won’t take long to notice.
When asked if Bouye is strictly an outside cornerback, A.J. promptly responded, “Of course.”
“That’s all I’ve played ever since I got into the league was outside,” he stated. “I know I can hold my own out there. So I’m definitely not worried about that.”
Last year, under Fangio, Harris was asked to play outside corner more than he had been used to in the past. By the end of the year, Harris made it clear this was not the role that best suited him. He wanted to play in the slot more, as opposed to being a pure outside corner.
“There’s just a lot of concepts that fascinate me and I know I can make plays if I’m put in the right situation. That’s one thing I feel like, especially on the outside, I can do,” Bouye said with full confidence on Wednesday.
There is one more difference between the two Pro Bowlers. Bouye is, well, excited to be in Denver — donning orange and blue.
“Definitely looking forward to playing here,” he said. “The atmosphere was one of the things that really stood out to me. Just the fans, the way everything is ran there. I came out there the week before to get my paperwork done. I just love the energy there.”