ARLINGTON, Texas – Rob Ryan knows his defense was far from perfect against the Broncos on Thursday, the unit's first live contact in his new 3-4 scheme after a two-week crash course in San Antonio.
He still has no doubt they'll be better than last year's 23rd NFL ranking and a franchise-record 436 points allowed.
"I think it's been well-reported, 'looks like the same ol' defense,'" Ryan said. "But we did hold them to a bunch of field goals. That might have been a little different.
"That's the way it's gonna be. We're not gonna give up a bunch of touchdowns."
The starters bent but didn't break in their lone series against Denver. The Broncos reached the 1-yard line in nine quick plays, including 40 rushing yards on six carries. But a penalty and three straight incompletions forced them to settle for a field goal.
Ryan wasn't pleased with the high number of mental mistakes Thursday, particularly by the backups late in the game.
"Physically we weren't making many mistakes at all," he said. "Our guys were playing hard, they were playing physically. Mentally we just had too many breakdowns, especially with the last bunch out there. We gave up two touchdowns, which we don't like to do. I won't take offense if you kick a field goal, but if you score a touchdown we don't like that."
Ryan praised four players: defensive end Jason Hatcher, whose pressure forced the Broncos' third-down incompletion on the opening field goal drive and later led to Alan Ball's nullified interception; cornerback Alan Ball, who capably replaced injured starters Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins after battling a foot blister early in the week; inside linebacker Bradie James and outside linebacker Victor Butler.
Butler had five tackles, a tackle for loss and nearly a sack. He's expected to get significant playing time in subpackages when Ryan deploys extra linebackers.
"We've had one-on-meetings and he's like, 'You can be a big part of this defense. We want you to contribute, but you've also got to know your stuff,'" Butler said. "(He said) 'we want you to be accountable. When it's 11 guys, fourth-and-1 and we want to get off the field, we want to know that we can count on you to make plays.'
"When you get that kind of confidence from a coach and that type of responsibility, you've got to live up to it."