The Broncos are in the middle of their summer break, but offensive lineman Elijah Wilkinson has no plans to slack off before training camp begins in three weeks.
Because after the intensity of OTAs and minicamp, he knows July 17 is going to mean serious business.
“I mean, man, I was like, ‘when I go home, I better be running, it’s going to be hot, we’re going to have the pads on, I’ve got to be ready,’” Wilkinson told the “1st & 10” crew Thursday about his mindset leaving Dove Valley two weeks ago. “Vic’s a pretty old school dude, so you know it’s going to be a grinder; it’s going to be tough, and I think that’s what we need. We need that toughness back. We need that Broncos football back. We need to get back to who we are.”
Having Hall-of-Fame offensive lineman Mike Munchak coaching is going to help that.
Wilkinson says the new position coach really breaks down the game and focuses on technique.
“He’s like ‘boom, boom, just hit em,’” Wilkinson said, joking that Munchak makes it seem like it’s easy even though it isn’t. “It’s not so easy, but he makes it simple, makes it seem like it’s an easy game. Just go out and be physical, be nasty, know your assignments.”
Wilkinson, who played right guard last season but is most likely preparing for the swing tackle role currently, noted that this offseason has had an entirely different feel.
“Man, OTAs has been different. It’s just been crazy, man. I don’t think I’ve ever done that much situational work in OTAs since I’ve been in the NFL,” he said. “The fact that we’re getting that much of a jump on it, should really put us ahead when we’re in those situations [in the games], and we’re going to be able to hone in on our training since April and be able to get right through and know the signals they’re showing us.”
Wilkinson added that the offense has been doing well, too. Although it’s been pretty even between the offense and defense, he noted that “we’ve even scored some.” [editor’s note: he said this in all seriousness, but you can go ahead and chuckle with me on how sadly funny that is].
“I think it’s amazing we’ve done all that work in just OTAs and minicamp and not even in camp yet. And we’ve done well,” he said. “I think they did a great job explaining it to us; they’re trying to make sure we know how to play the game the best way possible so we have the best chance of winning.”
Part of that preparation for the offensive line is coming from facing a trickier defense.
“They’ve mixed it up a lot. The first couple of days, it was really vanilla, just a base front and nobody is coming. But then they started really dialing it up, bringing people off the edge, linebackers coming at you, a whole bunch of stuff,” Wilkinson said. “You really had to think and hone into your rules, keep people sharp on protection rules and who they have.”
Wilkinson believes they are way ahead of previous years, which is going to be a big advantage in training camp - and ultimately the season.
“They threw a lot at us, but I think it was great. We’re already ahead,” he said. “When it comes up in camp, it’s going to bing, bang, boom; we’ll be able to pick it up and everything will be good.”
Going into his third offseason training, Wilkinson he has been impressed with both Ja’wuan James and rookie Dalton Risner, two additions to the o-line this season.
“I’m really impressed with Dalton. Seriously impressed. Especially for a rookie,” he said. “And Ja’wuan James is just super humble and plays hard. We talk a lot, bounce ideas off each other, just trying to make each other better. I’m excited to work with them for sure.”
But if he had to pick a defensive player that is having a great camp so far - with Von Miller and Bradley Chubb off limits to choose - Wilkinson picked a linebacker.
“Somebody who has stood out is Josey Jewell, to be honest,” Wilkinson said. “He made a really big jump from last year. I’m excited for him.”
How much better do you expect this year’s o-line to be overall with Mike Munchak on board? (note: level of improvement, not necessarily level of performance)
This poll is closed
A ZIMMERMAN of improvement.
More like a NALEN level.
Only a SCHOFIELD of improvement.