Aqib Talib is who we thought he was.
He’s a warrior who sometimes flies off the handle, ripping guys’ chains off, tackling them by their facemask or poking them in the eye. And, Talib was always talkative, both on and off the football field while he played for the Denver Broncos.
Now, that he’s reunited with Wade Phillips in Los Angeles as a member of the Rams, the former Broncos cornerback star is ripping the orange and blue in Sports Illustrated.
“It was the same defense but we called less stuff,” Talib said of the 2017 defense compared to 2016 with Phillips. “Wade really had it wide open, and it wasn’t as open in 2017. It was like the beginning stages of Wade. It was new to this coach, so things were less disguised with fewer calls. If 40 calls were available to us in a game in 2016, we had half of that last season.”
20 calls seems like a really small number for an elite defense. But, Talib has a point; it was Woods’ first year as a defensive coordinator, and Wade Phillips is a lifelong football man. What made Phillips’ defenses so deadly was the old ball coach’s ability to dial up whatever “dog” or “blitz” plays he wanted to, because he wasn’t afraid of being fired.
For young coaches, it’s much more difficult to balance the pass rush with dropping back into coverage. They’re more likely to do the latter, because it’s a safer play in the long run. But, what makes defenses dominant is their ability to create pressure, sacks, and force turnovers.
While the Broncos defense was third-best in the NFL in 2017 in terms of yards allowed, they were 24th in interceptions (10) and 22nd in sacks (33). Each of those last two numbers were down greatly from 2016, with 42 sacks (third) and 14 picks (12th).
But, it wasn’t just that Joe Woods was less likely to send pressure than Phillips. As Talib opines here, the Broncos fired all the “dogs.”
“Maybe they should stop firing all the dogs,” Talib said via SI. “That team was full of dogs, and now they’re all gone. So, stop firing all the dogs.”
The biggest personnel change from ’16-17 was jettisoning T.J. Ward, a move which was loathed by Talib as well as other defenders. He could also be talking about losing Danny Trevathan after Super Bowl 50, and, he’s likely also talking about himself as one of those “dogs.”
Can the Broncos become an elite defense once again, in Woods’ and head coach Vance Joseph’s second year in their respective positions? They better hope so, or both of their jobs will likely be on the line.