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Broncos thriving from competition at safety, offensive line

Though competition has been mostly "theoretical" so far as players have been busy studying, getting up to speed on schemes and getting conditioned, the battles on the field will begin soon enough - especially competiiton at safety and the ongoing quest for a solid offensive line.

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Good morning, Broncos Country!

Anybody else really rather talk about football this morning? Thought so.

Battle at safety

Since the departure of Rahim Moore via free agency, there's been a lot of chatter about who will fill his starting safety role opposite T.J. Ward.

Former Ravens safety Darian Stewart told the media earlier this week that when he signed on with the Broncos as a free agent, he considered the job his to lose.

"It's my position. It's my position to lose," said the sixth-year safety. "When I line up, I feel like at this level you've got to have confidence. When I signed here, I knew it was my job."

Last year in Baltimore, Stewart had one interception, knocked down six passes, forced one fumble and logged 56 tackles, 40 of them solo.

But along with that confidence, Stewart is more than willing to compete for the position. In fact, he revels in it.

"Competition is what I need; it makes all of us better," Stewart said. "I'm up for the challenge, and as long as we stay healthy, it's going to be a heck of a battle."

The players mentioned in "that battle" for Moore's vacated spot include David Bruton Jr., Omar Bolden and possibly Bradley Roby.

While Roby and head coach Gary Kubiak said recently the second-year player is preparing for cornerback, Bruton told MHR he'd definitely like to be the other starting safety.

"I love the special teams role, but I'm ready to break from that title and show the Broncos I can be that guy that lines up on the other side of T.J.," Bruton said.  "I played well when I had opportunities during the season, and I just want to build on that and show them I can be an every down safety."

Wade has a good scheme set up for us, and we have a hell of a defense. We've got depth, and I think this year is going to be a great year for us.  -Darian Stewart, safety

Stewart believes he is starter quality too and says as long as he stays healthy, he can be considered among the best in the league.

"As long as I'm healthy and staying on the field, my play is going to speak for itself," Stewart said, adding that stretching is a huge component of his training regimen for staying healthy. "I have a stretch guy. I feel like me staying stretched out and my hips open, I'm good."

(wait, he has a stretch guy? I want a stretch guy!)

But back to competition and the Broncos...

Stewart also noted that to this point most of the "competition" has been off the field learning the scheme, but it's about to get more interesting.

"Right now we're not hitting the field, so once we get out there and everyone starts making plays and stuff, the film speaks for itself," Stewart said, adding that he believes he complements Ward well. "He's able to play the ball in the air, and I'm able to play down in the box, so we just switch it up - we're interchangeable. That's always good to have."

As with the rest of the players on defense, Stewart's a big fan of the 3-4 scheme and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' use of it.

"I love it. Great scheme, not too complex, and its player friendly," Stewart said. "It allows you to make plays. ...Wade has a good scheme set up for us, and we have a hell of a defense. We've got depth, and I think this year is going to be a great year for us."

Vance Walker, defensive end who spent last year with the Kansas City Chiefs, definitely concurs.

"We've got a really good group of guys between the D-Line, the linebackers, the ends obviously, the cornerbacks and safeties," Walker said. "I don't think I've ever been on a team more talented. We've got really high expectations. We've just got to go out there and work every day to live up to those."

Part of living up to that expectation will be getting after the quarterback. Walker, who says he prefers to play an inside pass rusher because he likes to fight, is ready to do just that.

"It's just more of a mindset.You just have to be really aggressive," Walker said. "You've just got to hate quarterbacks."

Oh, that O-Line

A guy who needs to love quarterbacks is offensive guard Ben Garland. And the former defensive lineman out of Air Force hasn't had any trouble switching alliances.

Having come into the league on the opposite side of the ball, Garland says he has "embraced" his place on the O-line, though he definitely appreciates what he gained by playing defense.

I'm an offensive lineman now. I'm totally embracing it, and I absolutely love it. -Ben Garland, offensive guard

"It helps a lot to be from the other side," said Garland. "You kind of understand the way that they're thinking, and that really helps you defend against them."

Garland has also embraced the position and starter competitions that were inevitable with an offensive line that lost three starters from 2014 - Orlando Franklin, Will Montgomery and Manny Ramirez.

And the former college free agent is not worried about how the Broncos will replace those veteran linemen.

"Not only did we get some great draft picks, but we've got some great free agents in the offseason," Garland said. "It's going to be a thick competition, and we're going to have a great offensive line."

That seems pretty optimistic considering the struggles for consistency a more experienced O-Line had last year, but hey, I'm not going to argue with Garland's enthusiasm or outlook.

Plus, the Air Force Academy grad who also serves the Colorado Air National Guard in his spare time works extremely hard and brings a great attitude - which can only bring good things to the entire line.

"I'm going to bring my lunch pail, and I'm going to work," Garland said of his approach to competing for a spot on that starting offensive line. "Every single day I'm going to work as hard as I can to get better, and hopefully I can make this team better because of it."

Like so many of his peers, Garland sees the new zone blocking scheme as a big plus for his talents.

"I love the zone scheme," he said this week. "It's more lateral movement, quick, being smart and being able to move quickly and get out on blocks."

Garland, who first signed on to the Broncos in 2010 before fulfilling his military service, benefitted from some ZBS tutelage of former Broncos offensive line coach Alex Gibbs.

"It was key having Alex Gibbs. I don't think I'd be where I am without his coaching and mentorship," Garland said, noting he would often sit in Gibbs' office to pick his brain. "To be able to learn from the guy who essentially created the zone scheme, that's really helped my progress."

And Garland is more than happy to share that knowledge with the other guys on the line - even the ones he's competing with for a spot.

"When I first got here as a rookie, it was more of putting you down," Garland noted, adding that it's different now and players want to build you up. "Your teammates [say] ‘Welcome brother, let's go win some games.'"

I'm all for that. Let's go win some games.

That more-relevant PAT

BroncoMike made a compelling case earlier this week that when you do the math, teams should always go for two pointson the PAT now that the NFL has moved the one-point attempt back to the 15-yard line.

But my friends over at Five Thirty Eight argue the slightly less accurate one-point attempts will - over a relatively short period of time - move back into the very high 90s percentile, making the advantage almost negligible:

"Even if misses happen slightly more often, they're still going to be infrequent enough that I'd guess they're more likely to annoy fans after the fact than keep them in suspense beforehand. And while this should marginally improve the math in favor of 2-point attempts, it's not nearly dramatic enough to make going for two points the obviously better option."

two point

Perhaps the most important reaction to the new rule - other than our kicker's - is that of the man who will make the decision - Gary Kubiak.

Speaking to team sponsors earlier this week, the head coach said "it'll be interesting" regarding the new rule.

"There's no research, the game's never been played that way," Kubiak said of the tendency to go for two more. "But I see us working on two-point conversions a lot more now than we have in the past."

There you go.

Horse Tracks

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