Aliyah Holder hopes his last defensive snap from last year is a precursor to this year.
Late in the Broncos preseason final against Arizona, Holder played deep safety as he interrupted a crossing route to intercept a pass and return it 27 yards.
Not bad for a player who spent the entire corner training camp before being brought to safety.
When the Broncos training camp opens (hopefully) next month, Holder hopes to transfer the knowledge he stacked up in the practice squad last year to take the number 4 spot behind Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson and Trey Marshall.
“Honestly, after that last preseason game, when I really had time to play safety, I realized I really liked it,” Holder said in a telephone interview from Houston, visiting family. “You look at a man on the corner. When it comes to safety, patience is high, but being aggressive is also a factor in stage plays. Overall, I really like how much I can grow as a safety. ”
The Broncos refused to sign security again Will parks and made no substitute. Marshall, entering his third year, will be the favorite as a primary backup, but if coach Vic Fangio wants to play more doubles (six defensive backs) he could use Holder’s versatility as third safety on the pitch.
“I am learning quickly and wherever they put me, I will learn the position,” said Holder. “I feel I could take on that role. Last year in practice, I played dime and nickel, so I’m pretty familiar with most things. I would really love the chance to play a dime if Vic goes that way. ‘
Holder crunched away from cornerback last August when Broncos coaches informed him of the position switch.
“Absolutely (surprised),” he said. “I always had in my mind that I wanted to play multiple positions and felt capable and able to do it.”
In the preseason of Cardinals Holder played 46 of the 53 snaps. He played in the left corner in the first half, allowing him to finish four, eight and three meters while out of cover.
With the exception of one series on the right back, Holder played safety in the second half. The play-calling was basic – which hash the football was dictated as Holder’s “high” (downfield) or “low” (close to the line) safety. But what could be intriguing to Fangio and defensive coordinator Ed Donatell is that Holder covered the final receiver.
The biggest challenge when moving to safety?
“There is much more communication,” Holder said. “You call the linebackers and out to the corner ridges and to the safety opposite you.”
A bonus to Holder in the learning process: He treats 2020 as his seventh year in Fangio’s defense, not his second like other returning teammates.
“Vic coached in Stanford in 2010 (as a defensive coordinator) and the defense he installed, it really was the same there,” he said. “I did my best to have the same defense.”
At Stanford, Holder was limited to 12 combined games in 2016-17 due to shoulder and ACL injuries. He played every game as a senior (59 tackles / 10 pass break-ups) and signed with the Broncos after last year’s draft.
Thanks to organized team activities and mandatory mini-camps, Holder could get into a safe rhythm before the camp. But the coronavirus shutdown sent him to the San Diego area. The Broncos will complete their offseason program next week.
“We have this week and Coach Vic said that next week will be” super voluntary, “especially newbies,” Holder said. “I didn’t have a chance to go back (to Denver). Hopefully it is sooner than later. “
The earlier the training camp opens, the more likely Holder will have to make the team. He needs more game representatives in safety, period.
“I am still learning and trying to understand the whole defense from a security point of view,” he said. “I have some great teammates and leaders who do a good job of asking questions in the meetings, so I learn from them guys like Kareem and Justin and (cornerback) Bryce Callahan who are familiar with defense and have experience in the League.”