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Broncos’ offense got tougher, faster after the Draft

With an offensive tackle in the first round, a quarterback in the last round, and two wide receivers, a running back and a tight end in between, the Broncos added six offensive weapons to bring ‘the juice.’

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

If the defensive draft picks were about adding more toughness, the offensive picks were about bringing in some toughness.

“It’s not that this team hasn’t been a tough football team up to this point. Especially on the defensive side—we play with so much confidence on the defensive side—but offensively, we’ve struggled a little bit confidence wise,” GM John Elway said after the second day of the NFL Draft in which the Broncos drafted two offensive players in the first two days and added another four on day three.

“If we can add some toughness,” he added, “that’s going to help us get that confidence back.”

With offensive tackle Garett Bolles, known for a “nasty side” on the field, and wide receiver Carlos Henderson, known for “making guys miss” when tackling him, Elway believes they’ve improved the toughness part quite a bit.

“Bringing these guys that are physical guys and competitors, that’s going to help us get there sooner,” Elway said, noting the good fit with Bolles and Henderson. “Those type of guys coming in on the offensive side are going to help get us there.”

Henderson definitely thinks his toughness is what allows him to get so many yards after the catch. At Louisiana Tech, he had 23 touchdowns out of his 82 catches for more than 1,500 yards. He averaged 18.7 yards per catch.

“In this game, you’ve got to be physical and you’ve got to be tough, otherwise you won’t last in this game of football,” said Henderson, who played running back his entire football life until he went to college. “That’s why I’m physical and tough.”

Wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert noted the thing that stood out from Henderson’s film right away was that not only did he catch the long balls, he kept running afterward.

“Carlos is a very explosive guy. We really, really liked him on tape and [liked] his game film,” Tolbert said. “He was the best in college football with 48 missed tackle opportunities while he was running with the ball.”

Bolles, who plays football like he has a new lease on life (and that’s not far from the truth), noted that he has nothing but love for fellow football players off the field, but on the field, any guy in an opposing jersey is fair game for pain.

“My coach always told me to finish and that’s what I bring to the game. My dad always told me that if you show your numbers, you’re a dead man,” Bolles said. “I love football, and when I’m off the field I love you all. You’re all my family, but when you’re in a different color jersey, I’m coming after you to help my team win. …You guys are getting an awesome kid that’s humble, hungry and ready to play football and help us win another Super Bowl.”

And that was exactly what Elway was aiming for with his first-round pick.

“One of the key things is not only to get that kind of athlete at tackle and with that size, but also the mentality that he’s going to bring,” Elway said. “I think [Garett] brings a great mentality to that offensive line that needed a jolt. … He was enthusiastic and high energy. It was not only his athletic ability, but it was also what he brings when he walks in the door in the morning. You see how good he wants to be and how much of a competitor he is. I think it will make that whole offensive line much better.”

Bolles’ rocky past is well-known – he grew up a troubled teen with a mom on drugs and dad who wouldn’t stand for his rebellious behavior. So the younger Bolles was kicked out on the street.

A stable family took him in but set some strict ground rules – rules that helped Bolles turn his life around. Then he went to Snow Junior College for two years before going to the University of Utah – dominating in football at both levels. His toughness no doubt has been engrained for a long time.

“When I’m on the field, I want to put people in the dirt - and that’s what I’m here for,” Bolles said in his Combine presser. “As an offensive lineman, you want to be the nasty prick that you can be. And whoever’s in front of me, I want to drive them and put them in the dirt.”

With fifth-round pick Isaiah McKenzie, the Broncos are getting a speedster whose 5-foot-7 size is only small on paper.

“I’m always a little chippy, I’m always trying to be competitive,” said the wide receiver out of SEC powerhouse Georgia. “Being a smaller athlete, I give my all every time I go on the field. I do that regardless, whether it’s in life or football. I’m ready to compete.”

And even though he admits that being smaller can make it tough to get the ball, playing more than one position gives McKenzie an edge.

“Being small, I’m quicker and a little bit faster,” said McKenzie who has been known as a special teams demon, scoring six times on returns during college, five on punts and one on a kick-off.

“I can do returns, I can play in the slot and I can play running back. I’m very versatile. I don’t mind being small.”

Sixth-round pick De’Angelo Henderson out of Coastal Carolina is also looking to sell his versatility to a Broncos offense needing playmakers wherever it can find them.

De’Angelo Henderson, who scored a touchdown in the last 35 games he has played, is known as an explosive pass-catching running back.

“I feel like I'm a complete back. I can run, I can catch and I can block,” he said. “It'll be fun just to come up there and compete and learn from some of the veteran guys and try to earn a way onto the roster.”

Between the two receivers and one running back added, coach Vance Joseph believes the Broncos just added some of that “juice” he so desperately wants on his offense.

Joseph called Carlos Henderson “a machine after the catch,” McKenzie “dynamic with the ball in his hands” and De’Angelo Henderson a 200-pound guy with “great burst.”

"We've added speed,” said the head coach. “Our goal going into the draft was to add speed, especially speed in the interior of the offense. We've got those two guys outside [WRs Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders] and most teams are going to play in bracket or shell coverage, so you have to have guys inside to attack linebackers and attack the slot players. We've added some real speed to the football team. I’m excited about that."

Jake Butt, the heavily touted tight end out of Michigan whose Draft stock dropped after he tore tore his ACL in the Orange Bowl, says he is “right on schedule” to be ready to play this season.

And he intends to do just that.

“I’ve always been ambitious. I think that’s what helps me unlock my full potential, setting goals that many people might think are crazy and then going out there and doing it,” said the Big Ten Tight End of the Year the last two seasons.

Noting that he can “move the chains on 3rd-and-8” or stay on the field on 3rd-and-1 to “make the key block” in a big run, Butt is

“You can line me up in the backfield, flex me in the slot, use me as move tight end or an in-line blocker. I know I’m not where I need to be as a player, where I want to be, but I’m excited to work towards it and become a better and better player for this organization.”

With Butt, the Broncos believe they are getting a top-tier tight end who once he gets healthy will definitely be competing for that No. 1 TE spot on the roster.

“As an end-line blocker, he’s very efficient. He’s got great ball skills and is a great route runner,” Joseph said. “He was awesome in the red zone for Michigan the last two or three years...That makes him valuable.”

Whether these offensive additions will be starting, competing for playing time, or suiting up on special teams, Joseph and Elway believe they improved the mentality on offense over the weekend.

“You want guys who love to play and hate to lose, and these eight guys we picked this weekend all fall in that category,” Joseph said. “They want to win. They hate to lose and they’re tough guys, but all good kids. We’re excited about that. It’s an attitude game, and you have to acquire guys with those attitudes. You can’t hope that players will have that.”


Do you think the Broncos got better on offense through the Draft?

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  • 51%
    Very much so!
    (895 votes)
  • 36%
    Inclined to think so.
    (638 votes)
  • 12%
    Will wait for them to show me so.
    (217 votes)
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