Getting after the quarterback was always going to be Denver Broncos first-year defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero's No. 1 priority for this season.
Having honed his craft coaching the Los Angeles Rams' secondary, Evero is all too aware that a strong pass-rush requires good coverage on the back-end if it's going to succeed, and vice versa.
Most analysts had presumed that Evero would use his premium edge rushers — Bradley Chubb and Randy Gregory — to apply most of the heat. While both pass rushers have excelled through the first three weeks, Evero has not been afraid to mix in healthy doses of the blitz to cause as much chaos and disruption as possible.
Evero's tactical curveballs have wreaked havoc thus far, with linebackers and cornerbacks being used in a variety of different blitz packages. However, don't expect him to go spilling his guts on what he has in store for Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders, or how he plans to scheme for Davante Adams.
“Yeah, I don’t want to give up too much of the game plan, but he’s a heck of a cover guy," Evero said on Thursday. "Davante is a tough cover for anybody, even the best corners in the league, and we just have to change up the looks on him.”
As someone who coached Adams for the previous three years, Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett was a little more forthcoming on how to stop the Raiders' talented wideout.
“You just have to try to slow him down," Hackett said on Wednesday. "He’s a guy who I’ve been with for the past three years. He’s an amazing human being and somebody that’s very dear to my heart. But at the same time, we have to stop him. I know that he’s a dynamic receiver with how he can get the ball vertically, intermediate and all over the place. He is very smart football player. We’re going to have to do our best to contain him as much as we can.”
One way of limiting Adams, though, is pressuring Carr and not giving the Raiders' passing attack time to develop.
“I just think, regardless of how it turns out, you have to affect the quarterback. That’s the No. 1 deal in terms of stopping the pass game in the NFL,” Evero said on Thursday. “We have to pressure the quarterback and I think it’s a credit to our secondary guys and the fact they we feel good about covering, which allows us to do those types of things. We have to get to the quarterback and [I] feel good about our four-man rush and [I] feel good when we bring pressure because we can cover.”
Hackett has done well to allow his defensive coordinator to deploy an uber-attacking game plan. It's kept the Broncos afloat as the spluttering offense tries to find its groove and some rhythm.
As far as Hackett is concerned, having Chubb and Gregory in the lineup offers up several enticing possibilities.
“Yeah, those guys have been pretty dominant. I mean, it's not just in the pass game. I mean, in the running game, also,” Hackett said. “They've been doing a great job setting the edge and they've been patient but understanding their responsibility. At the same time, when it’s a passing situation, they're both—I mean, they’re full-bore, both rushing inside and outside.”
Most credit still goes to Evero in the early going. His coaching star is now rapidly ascending in NFL circles.
Evero's deployment of Denver's premium pass rushers is cleverly maximizing their natural abilities and confounding opposing blocking schemes. Evero has let his players fulfill their potential by playing fast and free, allowing his unit to let its hard-wired football instincts take over.
“The biggest thing for me is that we just want people to be themselves and be the best version of themselves,” Evero said. “I think our guys, they’re playing with confidence, they have belief in each other and it’s—they’re expressing themselves, and I think that’s awesome.”
Thus far, it appears that Evero has the right coaching stuff required to truly succeed at the highest levels. If the Broncos can sustain this defensive momentum throughout the entire season, the 41-year-old coordinator might even start trending as a prospective early candidate for the 2023 head-coaching hiring cycle.
Follow Keith on Twitter @KeithC_NFL.
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