In an answer we didn’t include last week in his Q&A session with DenverBroncos.com, Linebackers Coach Richard Smith talked about his impressions of the linebackers he’s preparing to work with this season.
One key point that stood out was the fact that he put Mario Haggan into the same group as Elvis Dumervil and Robert Ayers, players Head Coach John Fox has already said he envisions as 4-3 defensive ends.
“You’d say why?” Smith said. “What it does is it upgrades the speed of our defense. Now you’re taking linebackers and they’re playing down linemen — it upgrades the athleticism of that position.”
I asked Smith to talk a little more about the role Haggan will most likely play in 2011 after rotating from outside linebacker to inside linebacker and back again in 2010.
“What was impressive with me is this guy played all over the place,” Smith said. “He played outside, he played inside — this guy was a jack of all trades and was really good. I haven’t met him in person, but I have talked to him on the phone. I like this guy’s personality. I like his energy level. Guys like that are contagious to your football team, so we have to find a spot for him. If that’s at the defensive line position or at the linebacker position, this guy is very valuable to your football team.”
With Haggan’s importance to the club in mind, Smith said he wants the defender to find as much playing time as possible — a lot of which could come on the defensive line.
“What we needed to do on our football team on defense is upgrade our speed,” he reiterated. “By taking him and moving him down, it upgrades our speed. I’m not saying he couldn’t play linebacker, but you would like someone who is not as big, not a 265-pound guy playing in a 4-3 system, if that makes sense. From that standpoint, that’s why we moved him to a position where he’ll have an opportunity to compete. I think that will be a very good competition at that position. Or in a role situation, where those defensive linemen have to roll in and out to keep them fresh. So I think he’s in the right spot for our system.”
We’ll post the rundown on what Smith had to say about the rest of his “exciting” linebacker corps tomorrow.
-Gray Caldwell, DenverBroncos.com