Happy Tuesday, friends. On Monday afternoon, Tim Ryan and Pat Kirwan visited Broncos training camp, and held a very interesting four-hour show from Dove Valley. There were a number of insights and opinions presented, and as usual, practically everybody they spoke to was much more forthcoming than they tend to be with the beat people.
I've seen (heard?) this time and time again with Tim and Pat at many team visits, where coaches and GMs consider them to be real football people who can participate in real football discussions. Because of that, their annual visit to Dove Valley is must-listen stuff. For those who didn't, I took some notes.
1. There was kind of a good news/bad news thing going on with rookie DT Sylvester Williams. Both Tim and Pat felt that he was consistently the slowest player off the ball, and they attributed it to being a typical rookie defensive lineman, and lacking technique, awareness, and confidence. The good news part is that they thought his hand use was excellent, and that even though he was losing off the snap, he was able to recover with hand use and power to basically battle the offensive linemen to an even match. Personally, I'm an optimistic guy, and I view this to be a good sign.
2. On the topic of hand use by defensive linemen, Tim and Pat think this is an exceptionally well-coached group, and that as a group, they show routinely excellent hand technique and foot balance.
3. Tim and Pat asked John Fox who his four-down guys would be if he had to go out and rush a QB right now, and after hedging slightly, and saying that no decisions were final, Fox said it would probably be Derek Wolfe, Sylvester Williams, Robert Ayers, and Shaun Phillips from side-to-side. He also said that Malik Jackson would figure heavily into that mix.
4. Tim and Pat said that Wolfe and Jackson looked particularly awesome in practice, and that both players had taken great advantage of their first NFL strength program, in remaking their bodies and dropping body fat.
5. I'm on my fifth bullet point about defensive linemen, can you believe that? For the second year in a row, Tim and Pat felt that the Broncos practice they saw was the most physical and crisp in terms of inside run drills. They've visited Seattle, San Franscisco, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland among other places this year, so that's pretty high praise for the DL group.
6. Tim and Pat noted, and Fox agreed, that the team was viewing Stewart Bradley and Nate Irving as guys who were both versatile between Mike and Sam LB, and Fox also said that he thought that Irving could factor in as a Will here and there.
7. Brought out of retirement for John Elway, who said that he could still throw a football like he used to, but that it took him three times as long to get loose as it used to.
8. Tim and Pat said that Shaun Phillips looks terrific, and they both thought that Phillips could be an overall upgrade compared to Elvis Dumervil, due to his abilities against the run. Fox credited Phillips for doing a nice job of learning both the Sam LB position and the Open-side DE position.
9. Kirwan watched Quentin Jammer, and wasn't real impressed with his transition to safety. He said that if nobody gets hurt that Jammer is likely going to be cut. If somebody does get hurt, though, Jammer is a guy with skills and experience, and Kirwan liked the fallback option that he presented.
10. Tim and Pat asked Fox about the hiring of Alex Gibbs as an assistant OL coach, and Fox said that a lot of value was being imparted, and that hiring a second guy for that group was basically in keeping with an emerging league-wide trend. He said that there was a lot to gain by coaching up the OL and the secondary, which both rely heavily upon technique, and with so many guys in both groups, staffs are adding second coaches there.
11. Duke Ihenacho got some love from everybody who was asked about him, and both Tim and Pat said they were impressed with him. Everybody also cautioned us not to sleep on Mike Adams, though. He's well-regarded within the building, and nobody should expect him to be cut. Pat spoke about having a big nickel group that you like to combat 12 personnel, and I see Adams being a big factor there, even if Ihenacho beats him out for the base snaps.
12. Tim and Pat noted a few times how impressed they were with the degree to which players who weren't participating in a particular rep were talking to each other about technique and correcting mistakes, as they waited to get back in the mix. That's a sign of a motivated and mature team.
13. Tim and Pat also couldn't get over the depth of the Broncos, and they credited both Elway (with acquiring it) and Fox (with developing it). They said that a lot of teams were going to be watching Broncos preseason games looking to shop at the bottom of their roster.
14. Julius Thomas was interviewed, and he came across as a smart football player, talking at length about reading the leverage of defenders. That really kind of surprised me, given his limited on-field experience. He must really have taken advantage of his mental reps the last couple years. As for practice, Kirwan noted that the Broncos repeatedly made him block the point of attack in 9-on-7 run drills, and that Thomas did pretty well with it.
15. Tim Ryan predicted that Stewart Bradley would be the starting Mike, but he also had high praise for Irving, after broadcasting Thursday's game for the local 49ers affiliate. Once again, the discussion was basically about the embarrassment of depth that the Broncos have stockpiled.
16. Pat Kirwan was very impressed with the growth, development, and approach of Brock Osweiler over his rookie year.
17. On the topic of Ihenacho, Ryan saw Montee Ball stiff-arm him straight to the ground in morning practice. Tim and Pat predicted that it would draw a lot of reaction in the film review, and that Fox (who didn't see it live) would love it. Ryan thinks that Ball will be the primary back before very long.
18. In their conversation with Peyton Manning, PMFM expressed a lot of admiration for Wes Welker, and he shared that when he watches film with QB coach Greg Knapp, Knapp always reminds him that Welker's ability is nowhere near normal.
19. Chris Harris said that Wes Welker gets the best of him sometimes in practice, but that working against him every day has made him a much better slot CB. Fox echoed those thoughts separately.
20. Both Tim and Pat said that they think the Broncos are probably the best all-around team in the NFL, and should be the favorites to win the Super Bowl.
That's all I've got, friends. I hope you have a nice Tuesday.