Among the many things that conventional wisdom says that you can't coach, high on that list is toughness. It's an innate quality that some players have and some don't. Broncos fans love it, and point to such young players as Ryan Clady, Peyton Hillis and Wesley Woodyard as well as older ones such as instant favorite Casey Wiegmann.
Toughness is getting better in the 4th quarter. Toughness is Weapon X, three-way player Spencer Larsen and Elvis Dumervil. Toughness wins ballgames.
Like many of us, I tend to pass my Sunday morning catching up on anything in the various sports media that I might somehow have missed on Horse Tracks. Yesterday, I noticed anew just how easily the written word can twist the facts at hand - or create them.
I caught two particularly egregious examples in the Denver Post yesterday, and since both were from Mike Klis, I decided to get to the bottom of the situation. Curious, I wrote this email to Mike:
Matt Bowen is claiming that the Broncos are trying to dump their RBs Peyton Hillis, Ryan Torain and Selvin Young. On Torain and Young, I wouldn’t blame them, but Hillis is a head-scratcher. Even if you don’t accept that he’s a talented running back (and I would make an argument that he is), he’s a either a good FB, good H-back. Potentially, though, he’s a heck of a talent at receiving the ball out of the backfield and running between the tackles, two things that McDaniels did at length in NE. Bowen hasn’t always been an accurate source, though, so take this one with a grain of salt.
Excellence in athletics is a goal that many long for, yet few achieve. Most of us have desired, however briefly, to attain the level of neuromuscular skill and hand/eye coordination that would permit us to reach the pinnacle of pro sports that the NFL represents. Some of us guide young people on that path as coaches. Others teach their children and grandchildren a respect and appreciation for the game of football, that wonderful combination of human chess and unceasing effort and competition.
Charles and Erin Dimry run Velocity Sports Performance in Carlsbad, CA. This facility stands on the cutting edge of the development of the younger as well as the professional athlete. Walk inside with me and take a tour through the new ways we can maximize the performance of the players, whether they are preparing for the Combine, or preparing for an NFL career...
Connor Barwin (also) put on a show on his Pro Day although it was much more of a surprise (than Vontae Davis). He wowed all in attendance by consistently running his 40 yard dash in the 4.5 range. After timing and testing well, Barwin shined (sic) in position drills as a defensive end (his projected pro position) as a TE and outside linebacker. Several scouts thought it was the best workout they’d seen in several springs. That might help Barwin get drafted in the early second or late first round.
Many Broncos fans may be asking -
"What might we expect from the new Denver management in terms of running-back usage?"
It’s a fair question. We can’t expect to know Josh McDaniels’ mind with certainty. He has promised us an offense different ‘from anything you’ve seen before’. I’d enjoy that. But we can look at several facts and actions, and have a fairly good idea of both what he has used and what certain coaches with the Broncos have done historically.
For a college football player, getting an invite to the Combine is only half the battle. Unless you're Andre Smith, there is the intense preparation - the Combine is a week-long job interview and the modern player knows that. The players will be tested, analyzed, interviewed, scrutinized and in many cases the metrics don't even fit the skills that the players will require at the next level.
The Combine can be likened to the SAT tests that most of us dreaded in high school. When I took them, you were assigned, you walked in and tested, and you waited for the results to come in the mail. As you can tell, that was a long time ago. Now, there are pre-tests, preparatory courses ad infinitum, and the rare students who walk in cold are already behind in the ranks. In the same way, there are now courses to prepare the player for the Combine. And if you don't make the Combine, you're like those students unprepared for the SATs. The odds are low and the obstacles high.
If the V-word (versatility) is really going to be Josh McDaniels’ MO, thy name is Connor Barwin. This is a very rare player who really can do it all. How many players in the past five years could you draft respectably as a TE and draft highly as a 4-3 DE, 3-4 OLB, 4-3 SAM or 4-3 DE? Offensively and defensively, Connor Barwin is as close to a complete package as a modern player can be and he’s rocketing up the draft boards after an excellent showing at the Combine.
Mike Nolan brought several things with him from San Francisco. He brought the plans for a nascent 3-4 defense, with some hybrid attributes, that is yet to be unveiled. He brought a background in working for the Denver Broncos, an understanding of the traditions of the organization and a knowledge of the town. Oh, yes, and he brought with him the wide-load defensive tackle and nose tackle Ronald Fields.