OTA’s and the mandatory mini-camp has come and gone. The players are on vacation until training camp opens later this summer.
First year Head Coach Vance Joseph (Colorado ’95), likes the sound of his voice. He likes to talk and talk and talk some more. The media will love him even if he isn’t saying all that much. Personally, I prefer the coach that doesn’t say a thing, or steals a line from Marshawn Lynch and is “just here so I don’t get fined.” Keep information close to the vest.
The biggest thing we’ve learned is that the offense seems destined to rebound from the Gary Kubiak experiment. An experiment that would be a colossal failure had Wade Phillips, and his defense not had some clutch plays. Not even an aging Peyton Manning and his offensive genius was able to overcome Gary Kubiak’s stale and sputtering offense.
Mike McCoy (OC 2009-2012) returned as Offensive Coordinator to take over the offense and brought Bill Musgrave in (QB 1995-1996) as the Quarterback coach with his 20 years in of tutoring signal-callers and working with offenses.
“We’re learning about ourselves as an offense right now. Both coaches and players. We’re trying to figure out what we do best, and then when we get ready to play a game at the opener, we’ll figure out what those players do best.” Mike McCoy
One of the biggest questions was “What will the defense be like sans Wade Phillips?” It’s early, and you can’t put a lot into OTA’s or mini-camps or even training camp to an extent, but it seems Joe Woods (DB Coach 2015-2016) will run the same base system and like with any coaching change, he will add some wrinkles here and there. The players seem supportive of him and when you lose an asset like Coach Phillips, player support of the replacement goes a long way. Even the preseason games might not show that much, since hopefully, a lot of the new wrinkles will be saved for key spots in the regular season.
Brock Olivo was named as the Special Teams coordinator and seems to bring a fiery persona to the position. Again, players have preached his praises, but you aren’t going to hear anything else, so it is hard to judge it at face value.
A position by position snippet
QB — Until Vance Joseph, Mike McCoy, Bill Musgrave and John Elway, name a starting QB, the position is stagnant and treading water. Personally, I feel that if either Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch was kidnapped by Martians, or by a pack of uneducated Raider fans, and the other remained healthy for 16 games, that the offense will be far better than what was on the field the past two seasons.
Ole Jimmy Mora can yell playoffs, because the offense won’t be holding the defense back. The schematic improvement alone is enough to make a Bronco fan foam at the mouth. It will come down to one guy separating himself from the other in training camp. The sooner the better, because those reps are valuable to either young quarterback.
John Elway and Peyton Manning are the standard bearers at quarterback in Denver, but the fan base needs to hope for a Jake Plummeresque level of production before trying to force comparisons or expectations about either Hall of Famer.
RB –The new toy (Jamaal Charles) hasn’t been unveiled, and he feels he will be “the man”, so time will tell about the accuracy of his statement. Outside of Charles, C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker will continue to be key contributors to the running game.
FB — Andy Janovich hinted of the need of him being versatile, for a fullback, that means he needs to be an asset to the passing game. If he can line up as an H-Back, and shift out to a slot, or an off the LOS TE, then he will see far more playing time than he otherwise would. It would give the offense an added dimension. During McCoy’s final year in Denver, he didn’t have a pure fullback but you saw Jacob “Fort Worth” Tamme line up in the back field at times and shift out to the slot, plus he did his share of blocking and pass protection, as well. It simply gives the offense an added ability to keep a defense on its heels if Janovich can shift in to the normal FB role and bulldoze a path for Charles, Anderson or Booker.
WR —88 & 10 are 88 & 10 and barring injury to either, they will be 88 & 10 again. Both have shown excitement in McCoy’s return. The biggest question is the development on the slot and or the 3rd/4th/5th WR. In a perfect world, you could see an offensive set that had 88 & 10 both inside or both on one side to wreck havoc on all the other “fly zones” out there.
You have new additions, Carlos Henderson and Isaiah McKenzie joining a crowded WR room with veterans Bennie Fowler, Cody Latimer and Jordan Taylor. That’s seven and not even counting a couple of others. A couple of those names won’t be there. Making the roster for one or two of these guys will be a dependence upon special teams contributions and chemistry with the QB.
TE — This position has been mostly missing since Julius Thomas left for the greener grass (money) of Jacksonville. Virgil Green is the incumbent and the lone one with experience in the McCoy scheme. A.J. Derby is a new addition via trade with New England and Jeff Heuerman is hopefully ready for a larger, more productive role in the offense. Jake Butt (5th round draft pick) might be assuming the Heuerman role by opening the season on the PUP list and might contribute at some point in 2017 but it’s not a given. Whichever tight end or tight ends that see the most playing time, should have more opportunities to contribute with Mike McCoy calling the shots.
OL — When Garett Bolles was drafted in the first round, many expected to see him penciled in at Left Tackle. It was greatly disappointing that it wasn’t the case from day one. It was nice to see him finally get some work with the ones, but one can argue he should have had every snap since he wasn’t coming off of an injury. Throw him in the deep end and let him swim with Von Miller and Derek Wolfe, he can only learn from it. He won’t drown. I promise. If he’s not the starting Left Tackle day one in training camp, then it will be an even bigger disappointment.
Getting a unit situated is key, whether that is moving Donald Stephenson to RT, leaving him at left or experimenting at guard, you want a front five to get the bulk of the reps in TC to work together. Getting reps is key but you also need a versatile group where T3 can play left or right, or can sub in at a guard. You want guards that can play center if needed, but at the end of the day you want your first round pick in the starting lineup and 5 guys getting the bulk of the work.reps in TC.
DE — Note to Philip Rivers, you still need a baby sitter, well with eight kids you might need three. Derek Wolfe is still rabid, and roaming the field and looking to hunt and hit quarterbacks. Jared Crick and draft pick DeMarcus Walker have plans to do the same. Adam Gotsis will hopefully be healthy for training camp (arthroscopic right knee clean up) and be ready to reap havoc on Rivers, Alex Smith and Derek Carr.
DT— The Pekos, both Domata and Kyle, along will be Tyrique Jarret, will be key cogs in stopping the run. While the 2016 defense was still an elite group, they did miss Malik Jackson who like Julius Thomas chased the green and headed to Jacksonville.
OLB — There is no doubt that the team will miss DeMarcus Ware’s leadership, no doubt at all, but the team is in better position to replace Ware’s leadership than they were when Peyton Manning and his leadership retired following the Super Bowl 50 win. Von Miller has grown as a man and as player by playing with Ware, and Manning to a lesser extent, and he is ready to take on the Captain’s patch. The same could be said if Ware will still lacing them up. The man has matured and grown into a leader. Shane Ray will be the one charged with replacing the future Hall of Famer, on a daily basis. Shqauil Barrett will see his share of snaps, as well. If that trio remains healthy, then expect the defensive domination to continue.
MLB — Brandon Marshall, and Todd Davis will man the middle and both spoke about developing a bigger feel for each other, more of a unconscious sense of exactly where the other person will be so that they can fly to the football.
DB — THE NO FLY ZONE, will again be on lockdown. Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr., T.J. Ward, Darian Stewart and Bradley Roby will make sure of that. The Baby No Fly, Will Parks, Justin Simmons and others, will add depth. My gut tells me that Joe Woods will take more chances with pressure out of the defensive backfield and Quarterbacks will pay the price.
K — The key here was addressing Brandon McManus‘ contract. It was accomplished when he signed his 2nd round tender, which puts him under contract for 2017. That was the pro. The con is that the team has to do this same dance again next year since he wasn’t signed to a multi-year deal.
P — Nothing to see here. Riley Dixon won this job last year, barring injury, it will be his again.
Return Game — Special teams tend to take a bit of a back seat in OTA’s and mini-camp since time is limited and most of the work is spent on the offensive and defensive side of the ball outside of McManus and Dixon who mostly do individual work. Hopefully one or more of the new additions (McKenzie, Henderson or Brendan Langley) can own or share these kick/punt returner role. Emmanuel Sanders or Demaryius Thomas can do it, but having either of them back there on punts is huge risk.