Each of the past two seasons has been productive for Ejiro Evero in its own way.
Last year, he earned a Super Bowl ring as the Los Angeles Rams’ secondary coach and defensive passing game coordinator.
This year, the 41-year-old is coordinating one of the NFL’s best defenses in his first season in charge of an entire unit, vaulting himself into a head coaching candidate in the coming offseason.
Before the interview circuit kicks into gear, though, Evero returns to SoFi Stadium leading the Broncos defense along with fellow former Rams assistants Marcus Dixon (defensive line) and Dwayne Stukes (special teams). There’s not a ton of celebrating to do on either side, given both teams enter with 4-10 records, but it’s clear Evero has an appreciation for Rams coach Sean McVay and the run they had together in Los Angeles.
“He’s obviously one of the best minds in football and I think when you’re around him, especially in the offseason, he’s so involved in the defense,” Evero said of McVay. “Not in terms of telling the coordinators and position coaches what to do, but he’s involved in the dialogue of how we put things together and he’s so intrigued by not just offensive football but by football in general. He loves conversations about what works vs. what schemes and those types of things. He understands football on both sides (of the ball) as much as anyone I’ve ever been around or ever witnessed.
“That’s where he helps you grow because he’s constantly challenging you and testing the rules and finding ways to make you better from that standpoint.”
The offensive system popularized by McVay and San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan and its variations have spread like wildfire around the NFL in recent years, including to Denver with first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett.
McVay, though, told reporters this week he wished he had more reason to be concerned about Evero, having seen his work up close and personal the past five years.
“I don’t know if they know, because we don’t really know until we know who we have week to week,” said McVay, who, like Hackett, oversees a roster decimated by injury this year. “I wish I was joking.”
The most prominent example, of course, is the Rams starting Baker Mayfield at quarterback for the second time even though he’s only been with the franchise since earlier this month. A partial list of their missing pieces includes quarterback Matthew Stafford, defensive tackle Aaron Donald (ruled out Friday), wide receivers Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson, and tackle David Edwards.
Even still, Evero said he sees similarities.
“It’s a lot of the same concepts, the run game and boots off of it and definitely in the drop-back game, it’s a lot of the same stuff,” he said. “But, one of the things (McVay) does a great job of is whatever personnel they have available, really utilizing them and putting those people in positions to be successful.”
On the opposite side of the ball, Evero has done the same thing in Denver. His players rave about his football acumen and his leadership. The Broncos defense for the most part has produced regardless of who’s on the field — though the trade of linebacker Bradley Chubb did sap some of the group’s pass-rushing juice. Denver is third in the NFL in scoring defense (18.1 points allowed per game), tied for fourth at 4.9 yards allowed per play, second in net passing yards allowed per attempt (5.2) and have forced eight interceptions in the past three weeks.
“Everyone’s buying into Coach E’s plan,” defensive lineman DeShawn Williams said. “He’s hard on us each and every day, but it’s right because we have a group of guys that can take the task that he has. Coach E, he’s a great coach. One of the best DCs I’ve ever had.”
Said newly minted Pro Bowl cornerback Pat Surtain II, “Coach E is a great coach and a great presence. I wouldn’t want to go to work with anybody else on the defensive side of the ball.”
Sunday won’t mean anything for the playoff picture. In fact, it has a bigger impact for Seattle and Detroit, who hold the rights to Denver and the Rams’ 2023 first-round draft picks, respectively. But it will be a cat-and-mouse game between familiar faces all the same.
“Definitely like to think that we have an idea of what they’re doing, but at the same time he’s practiced against our defense for the last couple of seasons so he has a pretty good idea of what we’re doing, too,” Evero said. “At the end of the day, every game is an independent deal and we make those adjustments where we have to utilize the people we have available and see what they’re doing at a given time, see what they’re really featuring, putting that at the forefront and that’s what we’ve got to defend.”