Defensive end Jason Hunter has been hard to miss on the Denver Broncos practice fields in training camp.
Whether he’s been up against an opposing offensive lineman or a tackling dummy, the seventh-year veteran and third-year Bronco has shown a fierce tenacity during every practice, and coaches have noticed. Hunter has been working with the first unit defensive line since earlier this week, after starting camp with the twos.
“(Hunter) plays with great temperament, toughness and attitude,” Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio said. “Every day he brings it with passion. I haven’t seen him yet not be ramped up and ready to play hard and tough. That’s why he’s running with the ones right now. He’s kind of played his way into that spot.”
While Hunter said he “appreciates” such high praise from his coach, it doesn’t mean much so early on in the year. More than half of training camp still lies ahead, and the 271-pound lineman knows he has plenty of work cut out for him.
“It’s early in camp,” said Hunter, who saw action in all 16 regular season games last year for the Broncos, including two starts. “The roster can change. Right now, I’m just trying to stay humble and just keep working. Come out here, play good football, play with a passion, and get better every day. That’s what it’s about.”
It’s too early to know where he’ll end up on the depth chart, but Hunter does know what Del Rio has made clear – work hard and good things will happen.
“If you want a job and a role on this team, just come out here every day and work hard,” Hunter said. “Nobody has a locked-down, for-sure job. Just keep working every day and hopefully I can work hard enough and do all the right things so when we have that first home game against Pittsburgh, I’ll be starting at that closed side end.”
Even if he’s not at one of the defensive end positions when the Broncos defense takes the field on Sept. 9th, he’ll be rotating in with a strong group.
“We have such a deep rotation,” Hunter said. “That’s what it’s going to be. We have Robert (Ayers), he’s a good player. Elvis (Dumervil). We have some young guys – Jeremy Beal, Derek Wolfe. Anybody can be put at that spot and play hard. We’re just all trying to work and grind it out.”
Until the rotation is set, Del Rio would like to see all of his players exhibit Hunter’s motor.
“We’re going to play the guys that are the most dependable, the toughest, the most physical up front,” Del Rio said. “Hunter is being all that right now for us.”