ANDREW MASON, Managing Editor at DenverBroncos.com
Here is another new feature I am starting at MHR. Each week I will have a "5 Good Questions" post with a guest relating to the Broncos or an opponent. OUr first is with Andrew Mason, who'se work you see daily over at DenverBroncos.com. Enjoy!
1. Since you were at every practice and game during the pre-season, which player or players really stood out to you?
There were quite a few this year, starting with David Kircus. Not only did he show a knack at making the big play from the first day of camp, but you could see his progress on making the little ones. He dropped some short passes in the first weekend of camp, but as the days passed, the drops ceased and he became more and more consistent -- while keeping his quick-strike capability. Mike Bell, of course; the first few days of camp he showed a knack for making precise and quick cuts that sent some defenders sprawling. John Lynch mentioned Hamza Abdullah as a player who stood out in camp, and he did, ultimately doing enough to crack the 53-man roster along with his former college teammate and roommate, Karl Paymah. Cameron Vaughn also looked quite promising at linebacker when he played, and I liked his attitude when I interviewed him during OTAs, particularly his willingness - and, frankly, his eagerness - to play all linebacker slots if asked.
2. Which player to make the 53-man roster was the biggest surprise and why? And of those who were cut?
That's tough to say. I know a lot of friends who are fans were surprised by the inclusion of Erik Pears, but this is a guy who showed in NFL Europe that he possesses some skills, earning All-NFLE honors. Among those who were cut, I can honestly say I wasn't taken aback by any of the names that popped on the list. Based on how many friends have asked me about Watts, I know his release took a lot of fans by surprise, but when you consider that Brandon Marshall started the preseason opener before getting injured and that David Kircus and Todd Devoe started the preseason finale at Arizona, it seemed clear where Watts fell on the totem pole.
3. Darius Watts received a lot of praise during the pre-season, then was released. In your opinion, what changed?
I think it was as simple as this -- he got outplayed. Being at Broncos five camps has taught me that the Broncos' brass really does mean it when they say they give everyone an opportunity to show their skills and make the roster. Devoe and Kircus just did better. "We'll keep the best 53 guys," Head Coach Mike Shanahan has said over the years, and he did just that this year. Kircus and Devoe made plays both big and small, they showed resiliency in the games, they worked diligently. I don't think that the release of Watts was an indictment on him as much as it was praise for the efforts of Kircus and Devoe.
4. Being around the team as much as you are, what is feeling you are getting from the locker room about 2006, and how has the AFC Championship Game motivated the team?
Quiet confidence. As for the AFC title-game loss, I think Lynch said it best this week when asked whether it was a motivating factor: "I think it was an extreme motivator. I was proud of this team throughout the entire offseason because there's a couple of ways you can respond to how devastated we were after the Pittsburgh game. One's to go in the tank and right away we saw that wasn't going to be the case because our offseason program set league records in terms of guys that were here."
Everyone dealt with the AFC Championship in his own way. For instance, Nick Ferguson watched the tape repeatedly, while Al Wilson didn't look at it at all. But it's foremost in the minds of each. If the Broncos build from that loss the way they used their last previous home playoff defeat, then everyone in Broncos country will be giddy come February.
5. Other than Jay Cutler, which of the rookies has impressed you the most and which will have the biggest impact on the season?
This is a tough question, and in my personal opinion, it's a dead heat between Mike Bell - obvious, since he was the only rookie listed on the first team in the preseason -- and Tony Scheffler. Scheffler is the first to tell you that his blocking needs work, but as a pass-catcher he is smooth, fluid, and could cause matchup problems for defenses if the Broncos use him in the slot like they did in the preseason.
Thanks again to Andrew for the time!!