Harris believes DBs could hold key to Broncos' success
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) No disrespect to Peyton Manning and Demaryius Thomas. But Chris Harris Jr. thinks the Denver Broncos' fortunes rest in their secondary.
More specifically, how he and fellow cornerback Aqib Talib play the pass.
''I would say most of the season is going to rely on us,'' Harris said Monday. ''A lot of those wins are going to come if we play good or we play bad.''
The Pro Bowler doesn't mind that type of pressure on him. Harris even cut the team a generous hometown discount by signing a five-year, $42.5 million contract extension last December.
His motivation is blue-and-orange, not green. And this was a small price to pay to stick around, even if he could've commanded a bigger deal had he just waited until an offseason that exploded (case in point: Darrelle Revis signed a five-year, $70 million contract with the New York Jets).
''Everybody knows if I hit the market, I wouldn't have been here,'' Harris said. ''That was the best thing of signing early, of being able to stay here with the Broncos, where I wanted to stay and I'm happy.''
After all, the Broncos were the only team to take a chance on Harris, signing him to a $2,000 bonus in 2011 after he went undrafted out of the University of Kansas.
''People kept messaging me, `Oh, man, if you would've hit the market ...,''' the 25-year-old Harris said. ''I just try to forget about that and be focused on this team for this year.''
There's a lot to concentrate on as Harris becomes a focal point on a defense now under the direction of new coordinator Wade Phillips. Harris and Talib - his teammate when both were at Kansas - will be in plenty of 1-on-1 coverage in this system.
''In this defense, we're just so aggressive that we're going to be on an island even more,'' Harris said.
Then again, Harris doesn't need much help, anyway, considering he didn't allow a touchdown last season. He also had three interceptions and broke up 17 passes when quarterbacks did throw his way.
All that's a reason why the Broncos want to ''activate'' Harris this season. What exactly that means, well, he's trying to figure it out.
''Hopefully it means call my number to go make a play,'' Harris said. ''Be able to go blitz, do everything. I'm still learning what activate is, too. I'm excited to learn.''
A year ago, Harris was working his way back after tearing his left ACL in the Broncos' divisional playoff against the Chargers. It was an injury that forced him to watch the Super Bowl from the sideline.
This year, he's healthy and just concentrating on ''learning the defense the best I can, as fast as I can.''
Still, it doesn't mean he has no scars from the way last season ended, with the Broncos losing to Indy 24-13 in a divisional postseason game at home. Former defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio - now head coach in Oakland - switched things up against Andrew Luck & Co., moving Talib to the slot position instead of Harris, who played there quite a bit throughout the year.
The Colts exploited the move, with speedy slot receiver T.Y. Hilton turning in a big game against Denver's secondary, catching four passes for 72 yards.
Months later, Harris still isn't happy that he wasn't guarding Hilton that day.
''I was definitely irritated,'' Harris said. ''That's what God put me on this earth for, for guys like him.
''We're going to play him again. Pretty sure I'm going to be on him this year.''
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