ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Ejiro Evero operates with a slow heart beat. Talk to him at a press conference or in a side conversation about his recent vacation, and he never seems in a rush.
Preparedness prevents panic. Evero was born in England, grew up in Southern California, starred as a defensive back at University of California-Davis, received a cup of coffee in Raiders camp and became a pro coach almost by accident.
He met former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin while visiting a friend, and the next thing he knew he was in the business. In his first 14 seasons, he has reached the playoffs nine times and won a Super Bowl ring last February with the Rams.
He has helped out on offense, defense and special teams. One thing he hasn't done is lead a defense. That changes this season as he is in charge of a Broncos unit that is expected to remain stingy in yielding points, while improving dramatically in takeaways and sacks.
So how is it going for Evero?
"He’s doing great. It’s funny just watching his competitiveness out there. We had a good showing in our competition period with the offense, and just watching how angry he was that they had lost one was pretty great. Everything about him is competitive," said head coach Nathaniel Hackett, who was roommates with Evero in college. "Every since we have known each other we have competed at anything and everything. It’s great to be on the same team now, but out here we naturally get competitive. I love that about him.”
Hackett is the frosted side of life's Mini Wheats. Evero is not gregarious, but don't confuse his calm demeanor with a lack of energy. He is detailed and smart while creating trust among players. Broncos nose tackle Mike Purcell first crossed paths with Evero in 2014 when the two were together in San Francisco.
"He’s confident. He knows his stuff. I have known him since San Francisco with (defensive coordinator) Vic (Fangio)," Purcell said. "So to see him grow into what he is now, it’s been amazing. I have all the faith in him.”
Broncos nose tackle D.J. Jones watched Evero in the 49ers' matchups against the Rams. Now in his defense, Jones remains impressed.
"Skilled. He’s in-depth in what he teaches us," said Jones, who returned to practice and worked on the side, saying his back feels great. "He’s just a player’s coach and that’s a plus."
Optimism envelopes the Broncos and this training camp. Squinting is not required to see this team reaching the playoffs. However, the Broncos play in arguably the toughest division in football — as many as three AFC West teams could reach the postseason — and they boast a first-time head coach and coordinators. Evero is embracing the challenge of working for his good friend and leading the defense.
“We go way back in terms of competing in video games and weight lifting," Evero said of Hackett. "I think it’s a healthy deal and it brings out the best in each other... I don’t think there’s anything I’m trying to find out about myself (in this role) so much as you don’t know until you experience it. It’s more so just getting into the moment, and it’s our operation. As much blame or credit that the coordinators get, it’s a collaborative effort in terms of getting the game plan ready and the execution and delivery of the calls to the players in game. All that stuff, we’re all working on.”
The best pass of training camp came with a cost. Russell Wilson connected on a deep touchdown to a leaping Courtland Sutton on Monday, but cornerback Ronald Darby landed awkwardly on his left shoulder on the play. There was no injury update after practice, and Darby exited early to the locker room under his own power. The Broncos can ill-afford to lose Darby as they are thin at the cornerback position.
D.J. Jones became a father recently as his wife, Kayla, gave birth to their daughter, Avi.
Rookie tight end Greg Dulcich continues to deal with a hamstring issue. After a couple of days of practicing, he returned to the side field for work.
Randy Gregory did pass rush hand work on Saturday and is continuing to make progress from shoulder surgery as he aims to play in the season opener.
Nickelback K'Waun Williams (knee) returned to practice, but did not participate in 11-on-11 work as the team is exercising caution.
Evero made it sound like some of the top players will not play in the preseason, though that has not been decided yet.