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What will the Broncos’ defense look like this year? ‘Schematically, it’s the same’

Andrew Mason Avatar
April 20, 2022

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — If the Broncos lined up today in the nickel alignment that is effectively the base package in today’s NFL, they would likely do so with at least seven holdovers from last year’s defense.

For them, the adjustment to new defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero doesn’t require much acclimation. It certainly helps that Evero worked under former head coach Vic Fangio for four seasons (2011-14) with the San Francisco 49ers when Fangio was their defensive coordinator.

“For the most part, guys are picking up on it quickly,” edge rusher Bradley Chubb said. “It’s not too different from what we’ve been doing in the past because ‘Coach EJ’ spent time with Vic out in San Fran. It’s a lot of the same things with different verbiage. We’re going to have to pick it up fast and make sure that we’re all on one page.”

It’s all familiar.

“Schematically, it’s essentially the same scheme we ran last year but he’s added his own twist and concepts to it,” cornerback Pat Surtain II said.

“Schematically, it’s the same,” defensive end Dre’Mont Jones concurred.

However, the nomenclature is not a carbon copy. Yes, Evero worked under Fangio, and then was a part of similar defenses with the Rams the last two seasons under former Fangio assistant Brandon Staley in 2020 and longtime NFL assistant Raheem Morris in 2021, who kept the concepts Staley installed in his lone season there before becoming the Los Angeles Chargers’ head coach.

But Evero has other influences, too. In two of his three seasons (2007-09) with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — where he was on the staff with Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett — Evero worked under Monte Kiffin, whose Tampa-Two scheme redefined coverage in the late 1990s and early 2000s. During his first three seasons as a Rams safeties coach — 2017-19 — Evero worked under former Broncos defensive coordinator and head coach Wade Phillips.

The 41-year-old Evero is a product of three of the defining defensive tacticians of the last two decades — not just Fangio. And then there are his own tweaks.

“The challenging thing is a lot of new terms, and some of the terms are combined together to make it easier for you,” Jones said. “But I feel like I’m a smart enough player, and so are those guys too, so we can get it.”

Added Simmons: “Everyone has different ideas of how they want to call things and little intricacies on every defense. I’ve said it before, but, like, Cover-4 is Cover-4. But the way that you want to run it is just different, going from one coach to another.”

“From my understanding, there are a lot of things that are going to be the same from the defense that we’ve been a part of in years prior.”

One thing that will be different is the coaching style.

Like Hackett, whose relationship with Evero goes back nearly two decades to their time as teammates at UC-Davis, the first-time defensive coordinator oozes energy — although it’s not precisely the relentless up-tempo charge provided by the head coach.

“Other than that, he’s a very energetic coach and a very positive coach,” Surtain said. “He’s very enthused within the team and he’s locked in with the team. He’s very excited for this year, and I can tell just by the way he comes in the meeting rooms with all that energy.

“I’m just excited to work with him.”

Most of what changed was what needed to change. But the Broncos defense should look familiar — and if that guides them to the league’s top 10 in total defense, they should do their part in creating a viable success equation for the team at large.


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