Malik Jackson Adjusting To New Defense

Malik Jackson is adjusting to the Broncos new defense and is enjoying learning from a position coach unfraid to cut a player who's not toeing the line.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo—Denver Broncos defensive end Malik Jackson may have recorded just three sacks last year, but anyone who’s seen his tape will tell you that he has the talent to do much more. Yesterday, Jackson met with the Denver media to discuss a number of issues, including his new defensive line coach Bill Kollar, and how he’s adjusting to Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defensive scheme.

One of the most important questions Jackson will have to answer this season is whether he’ll be able to adjust to the defensive end position in a realigned defense. In particular, the Broncos will have to figure out whether Jackson is capable of rotating along the defensive line in Phillips’ scheme. For his part, Jackson says he’s going to be able to do the job.

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“So far it’s working out,” he said. “[Defensive Line] Coach Bill Kollar is a great and he is teaching us technique and how to do it. Coach [Defensive Coordinator] Wade lets us go out there and play and just get up field and make plays. I’m adapting pretty well…I’m built for whichever scheme they put me in. I don’t want to subject myself just to one scheme. I think it’s just if you can play, you can play no matter what scheme you play in. I’m just trying to adapt and forget the things I learned three years in a row and learn the things they want us to do here.”

Another question Jackson, and the entire Bronco defense, will have to answer is whether they can maintain cohesion through a 16-game season. The Broncos defense suffered serious drop-offs in the second half of all three of Jack Del Rio’s seasons. The Broncos will need to play all 16 games at a high level, if they’re going to compete for a championship in 2015. Jackson says communication played a big part in those issues. He says this defense is doing a better job on that front.

“I thought last year we were pretty cohesive, too,” he said. “I think this year everybody is helping each other learn plays. I know we’re talking a lot more when we’re out there. I’m reminding ‘Sly’ [NT Sylvester Williams] or talking to [DE] Derek [Wolfe] about our responsibilities. I think that’s probably something different. Last year we had been there for two or three years. I think this year it’s just talking to each other and helping each other out, and just trying to encourage each other to get the techniques right.”

Thankfully, the Broncos have several enormously talented defensive players on their roster. Jackson spent time Thursday talking about some of those players. Including the potential of having elite pass rushers Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, and Shane Ray on the field at the same time.

“That would be nice to have one-on-ones,” he said. “I think I’m kind of seeing that, too, because when there are five guys on the line, the tackles have to respect D-Ware and Von. They’ve got me, Sly and Wolfe on the inside. I can only imagine how many one-on-ones there are going to be. I think we’ve just got to keep practicing our pass rush moves and just be ready to take advantage of situations when we do get those one-on-ones, whether it be the best guard in the league or the guy who is just in there for an injured guy. We’ve just got to be able to go out there and make the best of our plays and get those sacks presented to us, and leave nothing on the field this year.”

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Jackson also spoke about one of the biggest additions to the Broncos coaching staff this season, defensive line coach Bill Kollar. Kollar, a veteran NFL coach who famously wrestled a bear with his bare hands during his days as a player, is now leading Jackson’s defensive line unit. Malik told the press Kollar’s doing a great job getting the most out of his players thus far, and he discussed whether he felt more pressure to play well because of Kollar’s presence.

“He’s one of the best and he’s proven,” Jackson said. “He’s been a coach for a long time. He’s been producing a lot of guys and he’s got a lot of guys under his belt as far as making them into the players that they are today. I think just him having us run to the ball every play or just expecting the most out of us no matter who it is—no matter if it’s me, Wolfe, Sly or Marvin Austin to the youngest guy. I think he demands respect and top effort. If you can’t give it to him, he’s going to let you know that he’ll cut you.”

Jackson continued, “I think it’s one of those things where you’ve just go to keep working and get it together…I wouldn’t say the pressure is more. I just think he’s a good teacher. When I say that, he knows how to pass rush from fundamentals all the way up to just going fast and doing it. I think that’s kind of the difference from last year is that he knows how to just get into the meeting room, tell you what you want, tell you how to do it from step A to Z and when we go on the field, he knows how to walk through it to get you in at least a feeling of it so when you go on the field it’s second nature.”

Jake Marsing is an Analyst for MileHighHuddle. You can find him on Twitter @JakeDMarsing. And be sure to like MileHighHuddle on Facebook.

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