As he strolled the practice fields during training camp last month, the voice of Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero could rarely be heard.
Evero observed an individual exercise and patted Mike Purcell’s nose on the helmet after what he felt was a good rep. He would talk to head coach Nathaniel Hackett, the latter much more animated. And during shift work, he was concentrating on his call sheet and jotting down the occasional note.
But the light timbre of his voice resonated well.
“Very energetic, very passionate, very direct, very clear and concise with his message,” defensive backs coach Christian Parker said. “And you can feel his passion for the game.”
Evero’s passion was fueled during his playing days at UC-Davis, where Hackett was a teammate, and a coaching career that included three stints in California State sandwiched by jobs in Florida and in Wisconsin. He has worked for Vic Fangio, Dom Capers, Monte Kiffin and Wade Phillips, among others. Defensive luminaries who call for play, all of them. Now in his 15th NFL season, Evero gets his first shot as a coordinator starting Monday night in Seattle.
Evero, 41, intends to take advantage of it.
“I was really impressed with him and just his demeanor and upside,” general manager George Paton said. “No one is as confident as (Evero). Really impressive in the room. Great command and presence and a way to know him on the pitch.
What is missing ?
The Broncos’ defense gained a reputation last year that was both true and concerning.
True: They would beat teams with young quarterbacks or inferior teams, teams like Jacksonville and Detroit, the Jets and the New York Giants. They were stat-padding games. Six of their seven wins were in double digits.
About: They couldn’t afford to beat teams like Kansas City and Las Vegas, Philadelphia and Cincinnati. They were alarm bells. There was never a confident feeling that the defense could make a save and give the attack one last chance; never an outward belief that they could create a turnover to provide a short pitch.
The Broncos finished eighth in yards and third in runs allowed … but 28th on third down, tied for 21st in takeouts and tied for 17th in sacks.
The Broncos need to stop the run better in early downs, so they signed DJ Jones from San Francisco. It’s up to him and defensive end Dre’Mont Jones to set the tone on defense. And the Broncos needed a better presence to rush, so they signed Randy Gregory from Dallas. It’s up to him and Bradley Chubb to close the deal on defense.
Evero thinks being better against the run will lead to being better on third down.
Despite the struggles of the past six years (no playoff appearances) and many of the same players in place, Evero wanted to have a smooth transition. It retains many of the same principles of the Fangio diet. But he is aware of what needs to be improved, and he has added his own stamp to it.
“As teachers and coaches, we want to make it as easy as possible for the guys,” Evero said. “We want them to play fast. There are a lot of things terminologically that are similar and there are things that are different.
Says Parker, the only defensive position coach retained by Evero: “The base is definitely Vic, but there are a lot of variations of what we want to do, both on a very small scale and on a large scale.”
These shades and variations will debut against the Seahawks. More pressure seems? More men’s coverage? More staff travel? Everything to be determined.
What Evero knew when he was hired was that he had players to build around. Dre’Mont Jones is in a contract year and had 5 1/2 sacks last year. Chubb is also in a contract year and finally healthy. Safety Justin Simmons is a playmaker in all areas. And cornerback Pat Surtain II should be an escape candidate.
But the Broncos need to make more plays. No more saves on the first try. More bags. And get more interceptions.
“We have to take the ball off more,” Parker said.
“A true professional”
During defensive staff meetings, Evero is collaborative. He wants to hear other opinions, even if they are not completely aligned with his point of view. Silence is the enemy.
Outside linebackers coach Bert Watts: “He’s a real pro. It shows in his preparation and in the way he carries the meetings. One of the hard things is when you’re working with someone and you’re not sure what’s going to happen. This is not the case with E. Every day we are prepared.
Defensive line coach Marcus Dixon, who coached Evero from the Los Angeles Rams: “He’s been in this business for so long and he’s had great coaches who have shown him the way. And he teaches us to do it.
Inside linebackers coach Peter Hansen: “His 14 years of NFL experience shines through all the time. I was impressed with the way he runs staff and player meetings.
Two years ago, Evero was part of a Rams team whose defense was led by first coordinator Brandon Staley. The Rams led the league in the fewest runs allowed, and Staley was hired to coach the Chargers. But first for Evero — building a defense that can compete in the AFC West and help break the Broncos’ six-year playoff drought.
And he will do it in his own way by looking back on his previous experiences.
“He won’t be giving a ‘The Any Given Sunday’ speech,” Parker said, referring to the character of Al Pacino in the 1999 film. what he wants us to be on the defensive, he’s doing a great job of delivering that message.”