DENVER – Denver’s coaching staff has the week off, taking a much-needed vacation after an eventful season. New defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, on the other hand, is already at work.
“I’m here to get an early start,” he said. “I want to dig into the film and I want to help my son (Luke, a well-recruited high-school quarterback) get settled. I’m eager to get going.”
Del Rio, who agreed to terms with the Broncos on Friday night, had all the vacation time he needed the last two months, since the Jaguars fired him after 11 games last season.
“I certainly had some time to sit back and reflect,” Del Rio said. “I’m very appreciative of the time I had down there (in Jacksonville) — nine wonderful years competing. It was a great place to raise a family, all that kind of thing. There was time to reflect on that and decompress a little bit, kind of unwind, and I did some of that.
“I find myself rejuvenated. I’m very excited about the opportunity here, to come to Denver, this franchise and this organization. That’s why I’m here.”
There was no financial gain from Del Rio taking the job now. Any money he earns from the Broncos is deducted from the $5 million the Jaguars will pay him this year, since he had one season left on his contract there.
Del Rio considered taking 2012 off — and was encouraged to do so by friends in other lines of work, he admitted. However, he jumped at the chance to reunite with his former boss, John Fox, join an organization he admired and move to a town that is a “good fit” for his family.
“I love to compete, I love being around ball. It’s not about the money,” Del Rio said.
AS HE BEGINS WORKING AT DOVE VALLEY, ONE AREA DEL RIO will examine closely is the Broncos’ defensive tackle complement. Starters Brodrick Bunkley and Marcus Thomas held up reasonably well most of the season, but both are unrestricted free agents.
Defensive tackles have always been a core of Del Rio’s defenses, which he learned in Baltimore when he was a linebackers coach for the Ravens from 1999-2001. The 2000 defense, which led the Ravens to their only world championship, is widely regarded as one of the best in modern NFL history.
“Certainly, when I was in Baltimore, we had an outstanding defense and we had a couple of really good tackles (Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa),” Del Rio said. “If you’re going to play that four-man front, having two (quality) guys in the middle really allows you to do things.
“That carried over to Carolina the one year I was with John,” continued Del Rio. During the 2002 season, the Panthers featured Brentson Buckner and Kris Jenkins as the defensive tackles; they were flanked by ends Mike Rucker and Julius Peppers. That defensive line helped power the Panthers to the No. 2 defensive ranking in 2002 and a Super Bowl appearance one year after Del Rio’s departure.
“And then into Jacksonville when we were really good on defense early in my time there (with defensive tackles Marcus Stroud and John Henderson) and then this past year we were really good when Terrance Knighton and Tyson Alualu were two forces in the middle.” Del Rio added. “That definitely helps when you’re playing a 4-3.”
The Broncos will get injured defensive tackles Kevin Vickerson and Ty Warren back for next season. However, Warren hasn’t played a game since 2009, and it appears unlikely he would be asked to be anything more than a rotational player until he shows he can remain injury-free for longer than a few weeks.
DEL RIO WILL BEGIN HIS EVALUATIONS this week in relative solitude. Not only are coaches not around, but he wants to study the game footage of his players before he speaks with them individually.
“Not that I’m avoiding anybody, I just haven’t reached out yet,” he said. “I want to dig into the film and talk to the coaches about the scheme. Then there will be a time that I reach out to the players.”
Among the players on whom decisions must be reached soon are Bunkley, Thomas, defensive end Jason Hunter, middle linebacker Joe Mays, outside linebacker Wesley Woodyard and safety Brian Dawkins. All are unrestricted free agents.