One of the many things Denver focused on this off-season was special teams. Something that the Broncos have pretty much been lacking in since the days of fumbling Trindon Holliday, a return for excitement in that area is LOOOOOONNNGGG overdue. Well, one dude around here is chomping at the bit to get that excitement back, and that is new special teams coordinator Brock Olivo.
This year’s draft brought a couple of goodies to the new coordinator, with the “human joystick” Isaiah McKenzie and Carlos Henderson, the first as a punt returner and the latter as a kick returner. Both players bring a different set of skills to the field, and both are raw, but their upside in Olivo’s eyes is huge.
Regarding Henderson, Olivo feels that, “He’s a big strong kid, he’s got linear speed, he can break tackles, he proved that in college. Carlos has made a bunch of strides. We’re happy with where he is right now.” And when asked about McKenzie, Olivo feels that he is “he’s a budding pro. We’re happy about that,” and that “He wants the ball in his hands and he likes the fact that there is a Tyreek Hill in our division, a guy that he can strive to be as good as or better someday.” These two players are already at the floor of what we saw from the special teams play last ceiling…what a joy it should be to see them just grow and build on that skill-set.
The love shown by Olivo to his special teams did not end with the new weapons he’s got in his hands. One player that you have to feel has solidified a spot on the roster by special teams play alone is fullback Andy Janovich. Brock absolutely gushed about his man crush with Janovich during his presser, saying “Jano—love Jano. Jano to me, if we had 22 Jano’s we would be alright. He’s tough, he never says a word and never complains. He just does his job. He’s the first one in the meeting every day. He’s on it X’s and O’s wise. He knows what to do, he’s tough and he finishes. I love the guy if you could tell.” Not sure, Brock…could you please be more effusive with your praise next time, so we know how you feel? Janovich has already emerged as one of the special teams’ units leaders on the field as well as off the field as
Rest assured, Olivo is very concerned with that aforementioned fumbling issue that plagued Trindon Holliday in his time with the team. He absolutely feels that “Ball security is huge.” Whether that is from catching the ball cleanly or from running with the ball, rest assured that Olivo is teaching his team to make ball security number one priority: “Fortunately, as a former running back and a running back coach, I can teach that to the guys. I know every special teams coach tries to do a good job of teaching ball security. To me, I’m very passionate about it because I know as a running back that’s the number one thing you have to do—protect the football. Nothing changes as a returner. Protect the football, give us first and ten with good field position and we roll.” No more muffing punts or kicks, hopefully, and the team will be in so much better shape in that department.
Second year punter Riley Dixon is also putting in a great training camp according to Olivo. “We expect Riley to keep climbing. He has a really high ceiling. He’s a big-strong kid and he’s athletic. You guys have seen him throw too. He was a quarterback in high school. He has the athletic gene and we expect him to only get better.” From accounts that I’ve seen (unverified as I’m not there, but still…) he’s been booming 70 yard punts reliably. What will count is punting to a spot and pinning the opponents down near the goal line, but Olivo is convinced that Riley has only one way to go and that’s up.
The one piece of bad news that Olivo had to deliver to the press was regarding new punt returner-in-training, OLB Von Miller. It doesn’t appear that Von will be utilized as a shocking addition this season, as,“he’s kind of on the map so he’s not going to be a secret weapon when you put him out there.”
— Denver Broncos Zone (@DenverBroncosZ) July 31, 2017