Broncos safety Alijah Holder made his season debut playing 19 special teams snaps in the Week 9 loss in Atlanta.
A few days later, during the team’s pre-training session, coach Vic Fangio congratulated Holder on his play.
“I said, ‘Thank you,’ then gave him a little reminder,” Holder said in a telephone interview with The Denver Post. “I told him I can play a little corner and safety and, in my mind, learn nickel and dime.”
Planting Holder’s seeds probably wasn’t the same as getting a shot at the Broncos’ “dime” in last week’s defense at Miami, but his honesty deserves a compliment. Holder played 12 snaps in place of Duke Dawson, who was a healthy scratch after serving as a dime for the first nine games. Holder also played 20 special team snaps.
While still on the exhibition squad (but being protected by the Broncos from being signed by another team this week), Holder is expected to play the same role against New Orleans on Sunday as a call-up player.
“I thought he was doing well there,” said Fangio. “There were a few plays that he would like to have, but I was satisfied with the way he played.”
The Broncos subpackage has been overhauled in the past two weeks. Essang Bassey replaced Michael Ojemudia as the fifth defensive back in the nickel pack, playing against the final receiver and leaving Bryce Callahan out. And Holder replaced Dawson last week.
Holder started work a few days before the game in Miami, but adapting quickly has become commonplace.
Holder signed with the Broncos in 2019 as a cornerback. Apart from the preseason, he joined the exhibition team and moved to safety and played in the last two games.
Holder had to stay positive again this year as his chance to play was elusive.
“The difference is last year, I felt like I was still building myself up to get ready to play and by the time I got my chance I was almost done,” he said. “This year I felt like I could play as soon as we started the season. But when I waited my turn last year, I was ready to be patient this year and focus on the things I need to take advantage of the opportunity when it came up. “
The double position in Fangio’s defense requires a variety of skills, mainly like covering a corner and playing physically as a safety. Was it a marriage of two worlds for Holder?
“That’s an interesting way to think about it,” he said. “It is clear that corner is very busy (in cover) and in the dime I can be on the line of scrimmage and competition. Dime also requires a lot of mental capacity to know your alignment and what to do with the moves and calls. It really is like a marriage of corner and security. It’s a new position, but I feel comfortable. “
Holder said the defensive plan at Stanford prepared him for the Broncos – Fangio was the Cardinal’s defensive coordinator in 2010, and the program still uses some of his concepts.
“Coach Fangio knows I know this defense quite well,” said Holder. “I think he feels that I am able to play in different positions and he has really prepared me for that.”