Jared Crick Poised To Bridge The Gap Created By Malik Jackson's Departure

Fans and pundits might be underestimating the impact the newly arrived DE Jared Crick will have on the Denver defense in 2016.

Quarterbacks across the league might want to prepare for the 'Crick' they'll receive in their neck this fall.

In April, former Houston Texans defensive end Jared Crick signed a two-year, $4 million contract with the Denver Broncos that would reunite the standout veteran with a trifecta of his former coaches. 

Originally selected in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Crick spent his first two seasons working closely under then Houston head coach Gary Kubiak, and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, making him very familiar with their system and expectations.

"Just knowing Coach Wade’s defense, I had a good understanding of what they’re still doing, what they did before when I was there," Crick said. "It’s good to see the similarities. I’m going to be coming in to a defense that I already know. I’ll have to pick up some of the terminology that was different when they left, but I think I’ll be able to fit in. I just need to learn my role and do whatever I can."

Additionally, Crick spent three of his years in Houston with defensive line coach Bill Kollar. who arrived in Denver with Kubiak last season. In fact, Crick has credited Kollar with his success at Houston, helping him go from a rotational player with no starts to a key starting player by 2014.

http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1681565-5-reasons-you-should-go-p... Crick is projected to help bridge the gap created by the departure of Malik Jackson, who transitioned in 2015 from defensive tackle to defensive end when Denver implemented Phillips' 3-4 base defense.

Jackson took a six-year; $90 Million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars, after an incredible 2015 season that saw him amass 45 tackles, five sacks, seven pass deflections and a safety.  His most poignant play came in the biggest game of his career during the first quarter of the Super Bowl 50, when Jackson fell on a Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton fumble, forced by his teammate Von Miller and returned it for the first touchdown of his career.

Jackson's decision to leave Denver didn’t come lightly and left a lot of Broncos fans upset that he wasn’t sticking around to help guarantee a back-to-back Super Bowl Championship. However, for Jackson, he has no regrets.

"It's a business at the end of the day and I realized that going into this year," Jackson said. "It's what you've worked so hard for and put yourself in the position to go out there and do what I did. I had a great year, won the Super Bowl and come out here -- and ultimately make a lot of money for your family.

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It wasn’t all cut and dry. Jackson had some appreciation for his former Broncos coaching staff.

"It's bittersweet because I loved the organization," he said. "They gave me a chance to go out there and play from the get-go. They let me grow and they brought people in there to help me grow.”

Similarly, Crick holds the coaching staff in Denver with the same regard.

“He brings the best out of you," Crick said. "Every year I played under coach Kollar, I got better and improved as a football player. So I expect playing for him again, that I will continue progressing as a football player.”

So Broncos fans can take a deep breath and put some faith in the competence of the Denver coaching staff to be able to replicate the output of a player like Jackson on the field for Denver in 2016.

And let it be warned: Crick should not be overlooked as potentially being that key defensive player that surprises everyone in the upcoming 2016 season. 

http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1671902-broncos-90-man-roster-ana... At 6-foot-4 and 285 pounds, Crick has already made a name for himself in the NFL.  Starting 31-of-32 games in his last two seasons, he was an essential piece of the puzzle that helped earn the Texans numerous defensive accolades last season, including ranking in the top-10 in pass defense, rushing defense, and total defense overall.

Naysayers will point out that Crick only had 5.5 sacks in his four total seasons, while Jackson had 5.5 sacks in 2015 alone. However, in those years, Crick was also nursing a knee injury and an old torn pectoral muscle from his senior season at Nebraska.

In fact, Crick only recently earned his way into a starting position in Houston’s post-Kubiak era, so we have yet to see how the Nebraska native can perform fully healthy. He'll get the chance to do it with the smell of a championship still fresh on the Bronco turf. 

Additionally, It was proven that familiarity with the scheme—and it's simplicity—is what made the Broncos defensive line not only deep but also successful in 2015.  And if it isn’t obvious by now, scheme familiarity is Crick’s No. 1 asset.

It could easily be said that Crick has been hand-molded by the Denver coaching staff. He knows what they want, he knows how they want it, and he has executed it successfully throughout his time in the league.  

With 32-inch arms, he has the length and quickness to rise and deflect passes at the line of scrimmage. Joining his old coaching staff and a fellow Cornhusker, Andy Janovich, the veteran Crick should more than feel like he is home.

What Denver has constructed here is more than a formula for success; it is a recipe for a potentially indestructible force to be reckoned with. The combination of Crick’s athleticism, with his cohesion to the Broncos coaching staff, gives him the potential to have an explosive year in the Mile High City.


Jeannae Elyse Bierstedt is a Columnist for Mile High Huddle. You can find her on Twitter @JeannaeElyse.

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