The final day of Denver Broncos minicamp concluded yesterday afternoon. The only thing left before "the dead zone" as I like to call it, is the final leg of the Broncos OTA program next week. I am sure there will be news in the weeks to come, but July can hurry up and get here after next week already. Yesterday's presser was brief with only John Fox and Von Miller being called upon to answer questions.
Technically, yesterday was the ninth full day of organized team activities and/or drills in the last four weeks, so the coaching staff should be progressing very well with their schematic installation by now. Asked about the progress of the team, Fox replied, "We’ve had a great attitude, a great mindset. Guys working their tails off. We just finished basically the third quarter of our offseason program. We’ve got one more quarter left next week so we’ve got a three-day break to recover. Hopefully we can take some time to rest ourselves physically and come back ready for the fourth quarter."
Being an outsider looking in, I've always wondered how coaches handle their program and coach their team up for regular season, so the next few questions were really interesting to me.
"We schedule all this stuff. We’ve got an installation schedule and we’re up to speed," Fox said of his offseason scheduling, "The guys are, like I said, working hard in the weight room and getting in the best shape they can possibly be in as well as the football stuff ... There are so many changes every year. Your team changes, the rules change. As long as everybody’s operating under the same rules, we just adjust and do the best we can."
The new Collective Bargaining Agreement changed a ton of the rules and it amazed me at how quickly most coaching staffs were able to adjust their programs to be successful under the new rules. New rules that were drastically different from the old rules. Good stuff.
The more I hear coaches and players talk about the offensive line shake up, the more I'm growing concerned about it. I think it's great to see guys like Chris Clark and Winston Justice battling out for right tackle, but my biggest worry is on how Orlando Franklin is adjusting to playing inside after being on the outside for so many years.
When confronted with finding that ideal combination along the offensive line, Fox replied, "It’s all difficult. When you get to this level, it’s very competitive and it’s tough for everybody. Making those decisions, I always tell them, basically they make the decision on how they perform. We just have to kind of watch them perform."
I wonder what their plan B is if it turns out Franklin has to kick it back outside. He is obviously superior at right tackle than the two currently battling for that position, but do the Broncos even have a guy who can start at guard right now and not be a major weak link in the chain?
Anyway, the questioning quickly turned to fan favorite rookie running back, Kapri Bibbs. Of his progress, Fox said, "I like what I’ve seen. He’s got a good football character as far as understanding the ball and he’s done well with his assignments. We’re not in pads yet, but mentally I’ve been very impressed, really, by the whole group."
Being an out of state fan, I have had very little exposure to this kid. It sounds like he may be able to lock in one of the active roster spots at running back, but even if he doesn't I think he will find his way onto the practice squad this season. Montee Ball looks the part of an every down running back, but its Bibbs' receiving ability that might earn him a role on this team in 2014 somewhere.
John Fox was non-committal, it seemed, on the receiving skills of Bibbs, instead choosing to talk about the more important roles and jobs of a running back in the NFL and how they related to the young running backs future with the team.
"Yeah. Like all jobs, you have to be able to do all of your job. Running back’s not just running," explained Fox, "You have to protect, you have to understand the pass game, pass protections, as well as the run game. There are a lot of duties to playing running back in this league and he has the right football character to do all of it."
Unlike most fans, I'm not too concerned about the fate of Bibbs. I think it would be great to see him get a shot, but if it doesn't work out then I'm not going to think somehow its going to negatively impact the 2014 season for the Broncos.
DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller seem to be quickly becoming good friends both on the field and off it. That's the kind of chemistry that will produce the kind of mind-blowing records these two plan to set. When asked about Ware, Miller said, "DeMarcus is great. He’s an open book. And with the type of career he’s had and the type of success he’s had over a long period of time, you learn a lot of stuff. To have a guy that, it’s like having an encyclopedia in there. He knows all kinds of stuff, all types of situations. And not just for me, but for all the guys in there."
For guy with as much consistency and success as Ware has had, it's only natural for a younger guy - even a superstar like Von Miller - to pick things up and learn from him.
"For me it’s more about just watching him. Just being able to watch greatness every single day," Miller responded when asked what he has learned from Ware so far, "Because I’ve felt like I’ve had some good practices, but to see another guy have, especially now, when I’m not able to work and stuff, it’s great just to watch him and just to see what he does on this play, on a run blocker. It isn’t always about passing plays and all that, to see ways he drops into coverage and recognizes plays and all kinds of stuff. It’s great having him here."
When Luke Richesson, the 2013 Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year, first came to Denver he brought with him a strong program that include mixed martial arts type of training. On those MMA techniques, Miller stated, "I think that’s more for other guys. I try not to let guys get their hands on me. I’m not really strong like all those guys. So the other stuff that he brings to the table is more for me. But the mixed martial arts stuff, I work on it but ... when they get their hands on me, my odds of winning the play go down, so I try to keep their hands off of me. Running around the corner, the way he dips his shoulder and everything, that’s more what I take from his game."
Man, talk about a guy who really downplays his physical abilities. I would agree that most times when a 325 pound monster gets his hands on a 250 pound guy, the smaller guy's odds of winning do go down, but then again, Von Miller does things that go beyond what is normal. Take this 325 monster who happened to get his hands on Miller one Thursday Night Football game when Von was a mere rookie.
Sorry, Von. But you are still a beast. Speaking of beast, how about that rehab schedule? Asked about when he'll be full speed, Von let everyone know he is ahead of schedule without saying it, "No idea. I’m doing walkthroughs and the offensive linemen were getting on me for going too hard, a tempo violator and all that stuff. And I had to tell them, ‘Hey, this is the only reps I get.’ It’s slowed down to a pace where I don’t have to worry about injury or anything like that. So walkthroughs is more for me and hopefully when I get cleared, I can start easing my way into live practice. But we’ve got a great training staff and they’ve gotten me all the way up to this point. I’m feeling great, so I’m just going to continue following directions and get it done."
ACL tears used to be terrifying to both players and the fans, but they've become so commonplace now that you almost forget how career ending they used to be.
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Asked if his injury puts a damper on his expectations for 2014, Von replied, "It hasn’t. I look at the Adrian Peterson story every single day and it’s motivation for me. Not only Adrian Peterson, but all the other guys that you never ever hear about coming off of ACLs and injuries. I just did a lot of research and a lot of reading into ACL surgery and the protocol and all that stuff. For me, my confidence has never swayed. I feel like whenever I get back on the field, I’d rather it be like, ‘Von’s taking too long.’ I wouldn’t want it to be like, ‘Von doesn’t look the same anymore.’ So I’m all in for working as hard as I can to get back on the field in a timely manner, but when I get back out there, I’m ready to go."
Oh man, I definitely do not want to hear people start saying Von Miller just doesn't look like Von Miller anymore. His timetable is not all that of a concern though and even if he takes his time, he should be ready by Week 1 of the regular season.
Chris Harris Jr. also has a timetable that, I think, might cause him to miss the first couple of games, but that is okay too.
Speaking of timetables, Von was asked if he had any specific dates and he did not, saying, "I’ve got a checkup coming up in a couple of weeks. I’ll go back down to Dr. Andrews and see what he says about it. Just keep on working. I’m really not in a rush. I’ve still got three months until September 1 or whenever our first game is. So I’m feeling great about the process and I’m excited to be here."
It seems the media is obsessed with "leadership" in the locker room and these lines of questions have hit just about every single player so far during OTAs and minicamp. So how is Von Miller being a leader while injured?
"It’s more in the classroom for me," Miller said of his leadership, "Because it’s hard to be a sideline coach and tell everybody what they’re supposed to be doing on the sideline. I’m out here running and stuff so I’m not really in the mix with all those guys during practice. But in the classroom, I’ve been in this defense for three years so stuff is just starting to click for me a little bit faster than all the other guys. And that’s where I try to have an impact on them guys. Telling them on this play, ‘You don’t have to do this, or do that.’ That’s where my leadership comes into play is in the classroom, working with the younger guys."
You can just tell, even from reading the transcript, that Miller is itching to get back onto the field in 2014. Provided guys stay healthy, this could be one hell of a ride of us Broncos fans.
His goal this season seems to align that as well, saying, "I’ve got a whole new look on just coming to practice and playing football. If you’re not trying to be the best at what you’re doing, that just seems lame to me. You just come out here just to play football, just to pay the bills, because it’s cool, that’s not for me. I want to come out here and try to be the best player I can possibly be, and just be remembered. And DeMarcus Ware, he’s well on his way to doing that and every time I step on that field, that’s what’s behind me: To be the best. I know if we keep that same mindset, we’ll be alright."
It really does seem that this roster is filled with guys who see football as way to excel and win, not just a way to pay the bills. Perhaps having a former player like John Elway running things has advantages in identifying the kind of personalities that create winning attitude and organizations. There I go again, bring on the orange and blue koolaid, people! I love it.
Go Broncos! #OrangeCrushv2