Del Rio turns attention to fixing Denver’s defense
Jack Del Rio’s plate remains full even with John Fox back on the
Del Rio won three of four games as the team’s interim head coach
during Fox’s November sabbatical for heart surgery.
Denver’s defensive coordinator handed the keys back to Fox this
week after guiding the Broncos (10-2) into the driver’s seat in the
AFC playoff race.
”Back at work,” Del Rio said after Thursday’s practice in
3-degree weather, his to-do list as long as ever.
The Broncos may be in the midst of a season for the ages behind
Peyton Manning’s 41 touchdown throws and their 38.6-point scoring
average, but they’re a disturbing minus-4 in turnover differential
and Denver’s defense ranks 27th in the league.
”I really don’t feel like we’ve played a complete game yet, for
whatever reason,” Del Rio said. ”We’re aware we need to play
better. I do feel confident that we can play our best football down
the stretch here and into the playoffs and that’s really what’s
During Fox’s four-week absence, the Broncos lost four defensive
starters, two of them to mysterious ailments.
Safety Rahim Moore underwent emergency surgery to fix a
blood-flow problem in his lower left leg and doctors are still
stumped over Derek Wolfe’s seizure-like episode on the bus ride to
the airport Friday.
While his teammates flew on to Kansas City, Wolfe stayed back in
Denver along with defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson, who went on IR
with a dislocated right hip. Wolfe has yet to be cleared to return
to action and doctors remained stumped over what caused him to fall
”Certainly, two of our better guys,” Del Rio said. ”We’ll
miss them until Derek is back. We’ll miss Vick. He’s a good player.
But there were some runs that were problematic last week that
weren’t necessarily a problem of the defensive line.”
Linebacker Von Miller has four sacks in the six games he’s
played since his six-game suspension. He’s played just two quarters
of the dominant football that was the norm during his first two
seasons in the NFL.
Veteran Mike Adams has filled in nicely for Moore, who can
return in the playoffs. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has been the
Broncos’ best cornerback with Champ Bailey limited to three games
by a nagging foot injury, but Rodgers-Cromartie has missed the last
1 1/2 games with an injured right shoulder.
Bailey returned to the lineup Sunday for the first time since
Oct. 20 but was limited to 30 snaps and served as a sideline
spectator when the Broncos were making a last-minute stand as the
Chiefs drove downfield for a potential game-tying TD. That showed
the 12-time Pro Bowler isn’t ready for more than a situational role
Del Rio took over the Broncos on Nov. 4, the same day Fox
underwent surgery to repair a defective aortic valve. Fox fell ill
during the team’s bye week while visiting his offseason home in
North Carolina. During the bye week, the Broncos had granted
Southern California permission to speak with Del Rio about their
head coaching job and he interviewed in Denver. That job went to
Steve Sarkisian this week.
Del Rio’s contract with the Broncos expires after the Super Bowl
and it’s widely assumed he’ll have any number of opportunities to
become a head coach in the NFL again, especially after burnishing
his credentials like he did last month. Tack on his 3-1 mark with
the Broncos to 8 1/2 seasons as the Jaguars’ head coach from
2003-11 and he has a career record of 72-73.
”His track record already spoke for itself,” Bailey said.
”When you’re a good coach, you’re a good coach. People in this
business understand that. And there’s only so much you can do to
hurt yourself unless you just go off the deep end and I can’t see
him doing that. He’s got his stuff together. He’s been good. I know
maybe at some point he will be a head coach again.
”But I think he loves what he’s doing here right now.”
He can add another bullet point to his resume by fixing the
defensive deficiencies in Denver down the stretch and helping John
Elway hoist another Lombardi Trophy.
Notes: Offensive coordinator Adam Gase on why he didn’t wear
shorts at Thursday’s practice like tight ends coach Clancy Barone
did: ”Because I’m smarter than that.” … The team’s new heating
system and practice fields held up well in the arctic blast that
dipped temperatures double digits below zero overnight.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on