ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos spent plenty of money trying to add a little more teeth to their defense this offseason.
Included in their ample free-agency haul were safety T.J. Ward and cornerback Aqib Talib. The Broncos wanted players like Ward and Talib because they want to be more physical on defense. The Broncos want to affect opposing wide receivers before those pass catchers get too deep into their routes, something they did not do consistently well last season.
But with that the league has also , again, told the officials to make illegal contact –- contact by defensive players in coverage outside the 5-yard chuck zone -- and defensive holding among the “points of emphasis" this season. The Broncos tied for the league lead last season in illegal contact and defensive holding penalties -- 16 combined, 13 for defensive holding -- so this is no small matter for the team on Front Range.
The Broncos will get their first look at what all that might mean Thursday morning when referee Scott Helverson and his crew is on the field for the team’s practice. During his time at the Broncos complex, Helverson will also meet with the players and coaches as well as show the league’s video about the rules changes and those “points of emphasis."
Broncos coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio have said they can adjust to how penalties are called if there is some consistency to how the rules are enforced.
“I think a lot has changed even since the owners’ meetings," Fox said. “They [the officials] have had plenty of meetings, they have had their offseason, they began their training camp, so it will be fun to get them in there and visit with the players and show the videos — not just rule changes but even the enforcement and how they are going to attack that in the preseason."
“You want to know how they’re going to call it," Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. “You know the league wants points, so you just have to play it how they are calling it."