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Elway hints at O-line emphasis in free agency, draft

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Without saying anything too substantial, John Elway did have some interesting comments at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis yesterday, not the least of which were his thoughts on college quarterbacks entering the NFL and the state of the Broncos' offensive line.

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The NFL Scouting Combine is in full force and Broncos GM John Elway and head coach Gary Kubiak are there to consider potential draft picks as well as field questions about apparently three things (none of which are related to players actually at the Combine) - Peyton Manning's timeline for deciding on retirement or not; negotiations with any/all of Broncos' multitude of free agents, and what is going to happen with Brock Osweiler.

While many of the answers stay at mostly a talking-point level of substance, there are always some interesting nuggets if you're paying attention.

From Elway's presser yesterday, a few things stood out as insightful comments, particularly his thoughts on evaluating college quarterbacks.

While a bunch of teams are trying to figure out how to take a Top 5 college quarterback and make him a successful NFL quarterback his rookie season, the Broncos have had the luxury of not needing to do that.

It's a fact that often gets overlooked when considering Osweiler's future with the Broncos. Sure he's relatively new to playing in the NFL, but his three and half years learning how to play at the NFL level puts him at a serious advantage.

Talking about the young quarterbacks coming out of the Draft, Elway highlighted this issue for teams. Because a majority of college quarterbacks - and often the top prospects - are running spread offenses, the leap to running an offense from under center can be a big one.

Those kids have not been underneath the center. To be able to come out and go through the drops, the reads and progression is the development side we need the young kids to have because you're going to go under center in the NFL.  -John Elway on today's QBs

"We're seeing quarterbacks coming out of college that are in shotgun a lot more than we were in my day coming out and really even 10 years ago," Elway pointed out. "Those kids have not been underneath the center. To be able to come out and go through the drops, the reads and progression ... is the development side that we need the young kids to have coming out now because you're going to be underneath the center in the NFL. Not only the rhythm side of it, but also the vision side of it."

Osweiler came out of a spread offense at Arizona State, and Elway mentioned the Broncos put him through some drills to get an idea of his "potential" running an offense under center. Feeling comfortable with that, the Broncos invested in Osweiler four years ago and there's every indication they plan to keep doing that.

"You never know what a quarterback can do until he gets in there, gets underneath the gun," Elway said, adding that this year Osweiler proved a lot - mostly because he has been studying to play at this level for several years behind one of the best. "I think [Osweiler] proved a lot to us. He's a guy that is a tough guy. He's a guy that will stand in there. He can make all the throws. Obviously you always like to have a little bit more consistency, but that's what young guys continue to get better and better [at] and usually it's their consistency that gets better."

While everyone speculates on the amount the Broncos will spend to keep Oz and whether Manning's decision will impact what the Broncos and No. 17 do, the interesting piece to me is the solid commitment and belief that Osweiler's experience this year has been worthwhile for both the QB and the people considering his future. Broncos are keeping Osweiler.

"I was really excited with the way Brock played," Elway said. "We wouldn't have been World Champs without Brock. We needed both quarterbacks to play like they played. It allowed us to be World Champions. I was excited about where Brock is and his process."

Peyton is the same old Peyton that he was. He's 18 years into it and it's going to come down to what Peyton wants. He led us to a World Championship and showed you the championship quarterback he is.  -John Elway

But Elway's comments on Manning's decision - while not particularly informative - also had some genuineness to them. No matter what Manning decides to do (and I've been one to think they probably move on from Manning even if No. 18 doesn't retire), I am sure the Broncos have their plans for how to approach either way.

"Peyton is the same old Peyton that he was. He's 18 years into it and again it's going to come down to what Peyton wants to do," Elway said. "If he wants to go through that grind and wants to [do it] again, we'll have those discussions. Peyton led us to a World Championship and showed you the championship quarterback that he is."

Read into that all you want, but it does show some respect for what Manning did for the Broncos and reflects the opinion from both Elway and Kubiak that No. 18 should get to enjoy that win.

At least until March 8, of course, and if Manning hasn't announced retirement by then, we'll all know exactly what our quarterback situation is likely to be.

But despite all the speculation about the QB position, ironically it's the offensive line and running back squad that is potentially the most crucial to Elway and Kubiak, and they said as much the past few days.

"Obviously that's an area where we need to get better," Elway said of the O-line. "That's going to be a focal point for us this year as we go into free agency as well as the draft.

Andrew Mason joked with Elway that perhaps that could mean picking an offensive guy in the first round, but the GM was still non-committal other than to note its importance.

"The key things is we want to score more points this year. I think that's always the goal," Elway said. "Our goal is to get better on that side, to get better on the offensive line and be able to put some more points on the board."

That's about as cliché as it can get, but Elway added that offseason adjustments on offense will be key to making another championship run.

"Obviously we had the right combination this year because we obtained the ultimate goal," Elway added. "If we can still play the same type of defense we played last year and get better on offense, that makes us even better. So that's what our goal is."