Good morning-ish Cyclones Country!
Oh wait, wrong crowd - oops ;) I mean, good morning, Broncos Country!
My hangover from March Madness is only beginning, and it's already affecting my Broncos fandom - slightly! So fair warning, the next three weeks could be a little confusing if my alma mater continues to make splashing second-half comebacks that give me repeated heart attacks followed by sheer joy and much dancing (it kinda reminds me of my favorite NFL team too!)
But I can still talk some football, especially since we have new players who are also talking a language I love - hard work.
Broncos added four players via Free Agency last week that didn't make any analysts' lists of top free agency signings but whom the coaching staff feels pretty darn good about. And listening to the players talk - as I kinda like to do - makes me feel pretty good about them too. Time will tell if we're right to do that.
The Broncos signed tight end Owen Daniels, safety Darian Stewart, defensive end Vance Walker and guard Shelley Smith last week.
Except for Walker, all have ties to Coach Gary Kubiak but all four cite him and his staff - plus Peyton Manning - as major factors in their interest to be Broncos.
No more room for Pot Roast
Fan- and player-favorite Terrance Knighton is no longer a Bronco, but weight issues and scheme fit made the Broncos willing to let him sign elsewhere.
"Obviously being able to join back with Coach [Gary] Kubiak was very appealing. I think he's a heck of a coach," Smith said, adding that coming to a team planning to use the zone blocking scheme, was also very appealing. "Obviously the zone blocking scheme has proven to be a very good system, and I think it fits my capabilities pretty well. I thought it would be a good fit."
Even Stewart, a defensive guy, utilized Kubiak's knowledge at the Ravens last season.
"Coach Kubiak, he's a good guy. We would have our chats. ...I would always go down there and talk to the offensive guys. We kind of had a relationship," Stewart said. "For him to acknowledge and want me out there, I'm thankful. Like I said, I'm proud to be a Bronco."
Walker, the only one of the new guys not to know much about working with Kubiak or his coaching staff, spent more than three hours with defensive line coach Bill Kollar when he visited Denver last week.
"He knows his stuff though," Walker said of Kollar. "He's very knowledgeable about a lot of things. I was just really impressed with him. He seems like a great coach to have. I'm excited to work with him."
And, of course, Daniels who's always had Kubiak on the sidelines one way or another, knew he wanted to be in Denver.
"I've only been in this offense, so I can speak to what they demand from us. It demands a lot," Daniels said last week. "You can line up in a bunch of different spots on the field, really everywhere, and they always look for consistency. So you've got to be able to block or at least be willing to do that. You've got to. I think the biggest thing is be on your game mentally. It's a very detailed offense in terms of what we do. I've learned from a very smart football mind these last nine years, and looking forward to learn more and looking forward to learn from No. 18 (Manning), as well."
As expected, Manning was a common pull for the new FAs, whether on offense or defense.
"He's definitely the greatest quarterback that I've seen play," said Walker, who certainly watched Manning dismantle his recent teams - the Chiefs and Raiders - many times. "I have a lot of faith in him, and not just him, but just the offense and the defense. I'm really excited looking forward to what we're going to do this year."
For Smith, a former Colorado State Ram who loves being back "home," the chance to compete for a position guarding Manning is just what he's looking for.
"I felt like the Broncos have all the pieces in place to be very successful. Of course Peyton Manning is a big piece of that," Smith said. "To be able to play with a future Hall of Famer, I think a lot of guys would jump at that opportunity. I'm very excited to work with him."
Smith is also excited about helping possibly one of the most important position groups for the Broncos - the line that protects Manning. Playing both right and left guard as CSU, Smith believes he can contribute to this team.
"I played both sides in my career and both sides in college, so I feel comfortable at either side. Where ever I can plug in and help the team win, that's where I'll be," Smith said. "Basically to come in and compete for a starting job. Basically push everybody and try to get better as a group and as a team. That's my goal - to come in and compete."
Likewise, Stewart believes he will be an immediate asset to the Broncos' secondary, replacing Rahim Moore who signed with the Texans late last week.
"I feel like I'm the final piece to the puzzle," Stewart said, adding that his experience in the playoffs this year will really help him moving forward. "The secondary, they're one of the tops in the league, and I felt like they can get it done out there. We have a great organization and we have the personnel in place to get it done."
Stewart believes one of his strengths is his versatility on the field.
"One thing about this league, the more you can do, the better off you will be," he said. "Just trying to know where everyone's at. I take pride in that. It all plays its part, especially with run fits and on the back end."
Versatility was a common trait apparently as Walker also believes his ability to play multiple positions on the defensive line is going to help the Broncos.
"I can play any position. Really whatever they need me to do, whether it's D-End or nose [tackle] or three-technique. It's a penetrating type of defense, so really wherever they feel that I fit," Walker said. "I spoke with the coaches and they're pretty impressed that I can play all positions. It's really wherever they believe I fit."
Another common thread with this new group is a hunger to show off skills they believe haven't yet been realized.
"I'm just ready to work," said Stewart. "I feel like I always play with a chip on my shoulder, and that chip still remains. I'm not done yet. I'm just ready to make plays. I'm excited about coming out there and getting to work and working with the secondary."
Even for Daniels who has played twice as long as the others, he thrives on finding motivation to play. And proving himself is a big one.
"I'm in a new city. I think people might expect more out of me, so now I've got to match those expectations. I'm playing with a first-ballot Hall-of-Fame quarterback and I want to make sure that we're always on the same page and I'm always in the right spot for him and doing the right things," Daniels said. "I'll be studying probably a little more than I have in the past, which is a good thing."
No complaints with that.
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