Even when teams put on pads for a training camp practice, coaches don’t want to see players hit the ground.
There’s a fine line between building toughness and putting players at a higher risk for injuries.
In order to work on tackling, Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio wanted to get as close to that line as possible without taking players to the turf.
“You can’t play good defense if you don’t tackle, so that will be an emphasis point, and we do drill it, almost going live,” Del Rio said. “I actually contemplated it; half the staff thought I was crazy, so we left it out, but you have to be able to tackle. You have to work at it to be good at it, and I think we’ve made strides there.”
As a former linebacker in the NFL, Del Rio knows how important tackling is in the game of football.
It’s something that he wants his defense to take to heart.
“We’re tackling just about every day,” he said. “We’ll continue to tackle (in practice), we’ll tackle all year, and we’ll tackle during the season.”
Del Rio hopes that getting more reps where the defense works on its tackling technique as much as possible without raising the risk of injury helps when it comes game time.
“You’re wrapping up, but you’re not actually taking them to the ground,” he said. “As close as we can simulate live tackling without hurting each other and going to the ground, that’s what we’re doing.”
One player that made an impression with his tackling in Denver’s preseason-opening victory at Chicago was second-year linebacker Nate Irving.
Irving led the team with five tackles, including one tackle for a loss, in the 31-3 win over the Bears.
“He’s grown a lot,” fellow linebacker Wesley Woodyard said of Irving. “He’s one of those players that continues to get better every day and shows us what he can do. Last preseason game, he made some huge plays. He just continues to get better every day and that’s what we all need to do.”
While Irving’s performance may have jumped out at fans during the game at Chicago, it was something that Woodyard saw coming.
“He’s in the study room all the time,” Woodyard said. “He’s in the classroom and he’s continuing to watch more and more film on what he did last year to get better.”