Among many discussion topics were Brock Osweiler, Rahim Moore, Nate Irving and Derek Wolfe.
For an hour Tuesday, season-ticket holders had their turn at Broncos coach John Fox and executive vice president John Elway. Approximately 6,000 fans listened in, with the questions coming from supporters who were first-year ticket-holders to one who had a season ticket in the franchise’s first year, 1960.
A few notable revelations from the conference call follow:
1. DEREK WOLFE: HE’S THE ONE THAT THEY WANTED.
Elway told one fan that the rumors that the Broncos moved back expecting another prospect to fall were untrue, and that they had defensive tackle Derek Wolfe in mind all along:
ELWAY: “We had Derek targeted the whole time and that’s why we thought that we could move back and pick up some value, some picks in the draft. We were able to move back to 31 and get the fourth-rounder … Derek was our target the whole time. We were a little bit nervous because we heard that he had been No. 1 on Baltimore’s draft board too and didn’t know if he was going to get to us, but Derek was our pick the whole time. He was our target.”
But that being said, Fox followed Elway’s statement by reminding the inquisitor that no trade down is made without multiple targets in mind:
FOX: “Very seldom do teams move back in the draft without there being a clump of guys there that you’d be satisfied with. So that’s most people’s philosophy and definitely ours as well.”
But toward the end of the call, Fox sung Wolfe’s praises, pointing out that some of his intangibles tipped the scale in his favor over other DT prospects such as Connecticut’s Kendall Reyes (picked by San Diego) and Michigan State’s Jerel Worthy (who went to the Packers):
FOX: “We had them stacked similarly on our board. But at the end of the day, a lot of these guys know how to do it, they know what they’re doing, and sometimes it comes down to what separates players at this level is the ‘why’ and there was just a real strong feeling of what he (Wolfe) brought to the table, not just on the field, but in the meeting room, in attitude, in something we want to build on defense with the Broncos. His production was the highest production level as far as sacks in college football and he was a guy that we really, really liked and it was obvious that we liked him better than the other guys taken. Time will tell.”
2. THE FUTURE IS BROCK OSWEILER’S.
“He’s our guy for the future,” Elway acknowledged, giving Osweiler the kind of definitive stamp that was never affixed to Tim Tebow. Why? Because Osweiler fits the template:
ELWAY: “I think that when we looked at Brock (we saw) the ability to pick up the exact type of quarterback that I feel has a tremendous amount of upside, that we feel like we got great value at that pick.
“It’s always tough to pick a quarterback that you know is not going to play for you for a while, but I think we have high hopes for him in the future to where once Peyton decided to hang them up that he’s the guy in waiting that can keep us (winning) and we don’t miss a beat when Peyton decides to retire, and we can continue to compete for world championships year-in and year-out.”
What Elway hopes for is the kind of smooth, seamless transition Green Bay had from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers. That was only made possible by the three years Rodgers had to grow running the scout team Wednesdays through Fridays before watching Favre play on Sundays. The Packers didn’t do well in Rodgers’ first season, but it was no fault of his own; with a 28-to-13 touchdown-to-interception ratio, he did his part, and they were back in the playoffs the next year.
But to do this, Elway had to sacrifice a pick that could have helped the Broncos this year, and he acknowledges that.
ELWAY: “Sometimes you have to sacrifice the short term for the long term to grab the guy that you believe can be that next guy for you, and that’s Brock Osweiler.”
3. IS THERE LIGHT AT THE END OF RAHIM MOORE’S TUNNEL?
Mike Adams’ conference-call answer of “yes” when he was asked whether he was specifically a free safety in March to put Moore’s return to the first team on hold. Quinton Carter, who replaced Moore in Week 7 last year, is a more natural strong safety and moved back there when Brian Dawkins was injured and missed four of the last five games of the 2011 season (including playoffs) and is expected to return there this year.
But when Fox was asked about Moore on Tuesday, he said this:
“He’s a guy that we have not lost faith in by any means. He’s worked very hard and is ready to roll. He’s actually had a good offseason. He gained some strength and weight.”
Yes, you can interpret this as Fox trying to rebuild the confidence of Moore, which appeared shattered by the end of the season, when he appeared tentative and overcompensated by taking late-hit penalties at Buffalo on Dec. 24 and at New England three weeks later.
Hitting the weights and adding strength can only help the 196-pounder, so that’s a positive sign. But the key to Moore’s development rests in his incorporation of what he learns in the film room. Moore is highly intelligent and possesses one of the locker room’s brightest minds, but often played as though he was trying to process too much in front of him, as if he was trying to bite off not only more than he could chew — but more than he needed to chew.
Adams’ presence affords Moore time to develop, but the Broncos need their 2011 second-round pick to at least become their top backup safety this year.
4. ANOTHER ENDORSEMENT OF A 2011 DRAFT PICK: NATE IRVING.
It would seem that Irving’s chances of contributing beyond special teams are minimal, given the three-year, $12-million contract awarded to fellow middle linebacker Joe Mays in March and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio’s enthusiastic endorsement of Mays at a press conference last Saturday:
DEL RIO (on May 12): “Joe’s an active, aggressive middle linebacker. He packs a punch. He’s got excellent closing speed. I think that he’s a thumper in terms of when he hits, he’s not a wrap-and-tackler; he delivers a blow, and there are a lot of things that I saw on tape that I feel very confident about being able to help elevate him to play even better and to help the front play even better around him. I think some of the holes that he was asked to fill were awfully big. We’re going to try and reduce some of those holes a little bit with our technique in the front and I think Joe will play even better when that happens.”
But as was the case with Moore, Fox used the question about Irving to offer an endorsement of his progress:
FOX: “He’s a growing player. He’s definitely got the athleticism and ability. He played behind middle linebacker Joe Mays last year and I think we’re looking for big things this year. He seems to have done a good job in the meeting rooms as well as in the weight room this offseason. I’d love to hear from him a lot this year.”
Elway followed Fox by noting the 2011 offseason’s lack of work for then-rookies because of the lockout, which appeared to hinder Irving more than any other given the cerebral demands of the middle linebacker position.
ELWAY: “The difference between last year and this year is night and day for these rookies in the fact that the rookies didn’t have a chance to get in and work out until we got into training camp because of the lockout. Last year’s guys are now having their first official offseason, which is where a lot of the improvement is made by these young guys.”
5. WHO’S GOING TO HANDLE RETURNS?
Speculation for rookies who might push for the kickoff and punt return jobs has focused around two cornerbacks: Omar Bolden, who handled kickoff returns at Arizona State, and Coryell Judie, who was a kickoff returner at Texas A&M but was a prolific punt returner in junior college.
Fox, however, offered another name.
FOX: “Probably the biggest loss was losing Eddie Royal, but we added a young man, Eric Page out of Toledo, that we think can step in, as well as some veteran guys that filled in that role last year. It should still be a strong area of our football team.”
Page’s gaudy receiving statistics at Toledo are the first aspect of his game that catch your eye; he amassed 306 catches for 3,446 yards and 25 touchdowns in just three seasons. But Page also returned punts, and improved to average 10.9 yards per return with a touchdown last year. If Page can handle one of the return gigs, it might be enough to squeeze him onto the 53-man roster where he could also serve as a No. 5 receiver.
Of the Broncos’ five touchdowns on kickoff or punt returns since 2009, three belonged to Eddie Royal. The other two were scored by Cassius Vaughn (kickoff return in Week 17 of the 2010 season) and Eric Decker (punt return in Week 1 last year), but given Decker’s responsibilities at wide receiver, he isn’t expected to handle that work unless there’s an emergency. Vaughn might find himself squeezed out of a roster spot entirely after the Broncos signed two free-agent cornerbacks (Drayton Florence and Tracy Porter) and drafted another (Bolden).
Expect the competition to be wide open, regardless.