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Gregory brings forced fumble ability to Denver defense

Broncos outside linebacker has forced 9 fumbles in his last 28 games. DeShawn Williams added to injury list.
Credit: AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson
Denver Broncos linebacker Randy Gregory (5) runs during a play against the Seattle Seahawks during the second half of an NFL football game, Monday, Sept. 12, 2022, in Seattle. The Seahawks beat the Broncos 17-16. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — There seems to be a little more tug on the football from Denver defenders this year.

Defensive lineman McTelvin Agim showed off the new trend in the Broncos’ final preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings. Cornerback Ronald Darby and outside linebacker Randy Gregory each forced a fumble in the Broncos’ regular season-opening loss Monday at Seattle.

Gregory is particularly good at the forced fumble. He’s had 9 in his last 28 games dating back to the 2018 season. Most of his strips have come while making a sack but he pulled “the rake” move to yank the ball away from Seahawks receiver DK Metcalf to stop their second-half opening drive Monday.

“In general we emphasize takeaways, but in Dallas we used to have a whole video presentation from a whole week of games on just takeaways,’’ Gregory said at his locker Wednesday. “Pull it out, raking it out, whatever. There’s a technique behind it. Throughout practice, every chance you get to poke the ball out, you try to do that. Some guys do it here but it’s one of those things where it can become second nature, habit, if you do it whenever possible in practice.’’

His strip of Metcalf?

“I was going to hit him, but I think K’Waun (Williams) had stood him up and since he was up I went for the ball and pulled it out,’’ Gregory said. “Getting one of those can alter a game and change momentum.’’

The Broncos ranked in the bottom-third of the league each of the previous three seasons in fumble recoveries with 6, 6 and 7. They were at their best during the defensive coordinator Wade Phillips years of 2015-16, when they had 13 fumble recoveries to rank 4th each season.

The best fumble forcer ever was former Bears’ cornerback Charles “Peanut” Tillman, who was famous for his punch outs.

“I don’t like the ‘Peanut Punch,’’’ Gregory said. “I’ve seen a couple guys break hands doing that. If the ball is out there, sure. Tillman, he perfected it, obviously, but for me it’s more if you’re the second man in, you wrap up, and you stick your hand between the ball and the body and try to poke it out.

“It’s something I think we should do more. You don’t want to overdo it, or you start missing tackles.’’

Injury report

Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett allowed Gregory and KJ Hamler to take the practice off Wednesday as they continue to recover from offseason surgeries. Also not practicing were defensive lineman DeShawn Williams (back) and inside linebacker Josey Jewell (calf). Jewell pulled his calf during practice last Thursday and didn’t play in the game Monday. He did conditioning work on a side field Wednesday, an indication he won’t be sidelined long.

Lovie insight

Houston Texans head coach Lovie Smith was an assistant college coach from 1983-95 before he broke into the NFL with Tony Dungy and the Tampa Bay Bucs in 1996. He then became a defensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams before he had a 9-year run as head coach of the Chicago Bears from 2004-12, followed by two years as Tampa Bay’s head coach.

Smith then made the unusual move of returning to college as head coach of the University of Illinois from 2016-20 before returning to the NFL and Texans as defensive coordinator last year and head coach this year. Smith was asked what he took from his second college stint.

“What I got from college is the offensive game has changed quite a bit,’’ Smith said in a conference call Wednesday with the Denver media. “There was a time when option football was a big part of our game, then of course you go to the NFL and it’s not.

“I went back to college and seeing how the mobile quarterback is used, I think that has helped me a little bit. There’s a lot more things offensively that’s being done in the college game than the NFL just because you have to protect the quarterback a little more in the NFL.”

Beck on Russ: “He handled the way we knew Russ would handle it. He was very open with us about what his feelings were coming into this game and this environment. He knew and we told him we were going to support him no matter what. Hopefully we showed that. We didn’t get the Dub, obviously, but hopefully he knows he’s got some guys around him who are going to support him.”

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