I wasn’t in Orlando for the owners meetings, but the Broncos provided a transcript of Josh McDaniels’ lengthy talk with the media. The headline was that McDaniels endorsed quarterback Kyle Orton as the starting quarterback (“He is our starter. There is no question.”) but McDaniels addressed many topics that should be of interest. Here they are:
– The Broncos opened up a couple starting positions when they released center Casey Wiegmann and linebacker Andra Davis. The Broncos could draft or still sign players at those positions, but McDaniels indicated the current plan is that Russ Hochstein is penciled in at center and Mario Haggan will replace Davis, with Ayers getting promoted to a full time role at outside linebacker. Haggan started on the outside last year.
“With (Mario) Haggan, we have the flexibility to move Mario inside at Mike (linebacker), and he’s every bit of 265 pounds at Mike linebacker,” McDaniels said. “He played on the edge for us last year. We expect Robert Ayers to improve and play a bigger role in our defense this year.”
At center, McDaniels said he is not worried about the position. He mentioned Dustin Fry, who played four games as a rookie in 2007 and was signed to a futures contract. Hochstein is clearly the top option on the roster now. Hochstein is coming off a knee injury but McDaniels thought he would be ready on time.
“He’s working hard and I think it’s going in the right direction,” McDaniels said. “Hopefully he will be back sometime in training camp, if not at the beginning of training camp.”
– Eddie Royal was on the injury report the last two games last season with head and neck injuries. McDaniels said today Royal was dealing with “concussions.” He said that when explaining how he would like to get Royal more involved this season.
“Eddie is certainly going to do more moving this year than he did last year; there is no question about that,” McDaniels said. “We started on that process late last season. We didn’t really get to get into it because Eddie had the concussions at the end of the year.”
Royal was having a poor 2009 well before those injury issues, and McDaniels seems intent on getting Royal more looks in the offense. He said Royal played the “X” outside position most of the time but will move around more, including in the slot.
“I think he’s a smart player, a versatile player (and) a guy that we need to do better with,” McDaniels said. “We didn’t do a good enough job of getting Eddie involved in the offense in certain games and we have to do a better job of that. He is certainly capable.”
– The Broncos signed three veteran defensive linemen (Justin Bannan, Jamal Williams and Jarvis Green) in free agency, but McDaniels didn’t rule out drafting another lineman. He compared attacking the defensive line in free agency to the way Denver added to its secondary last year. The Broncos then drafted three defensive backs.
“Certainly no question that we would add a good player on the defensive front in the draft if that’s what came up,” McDaniels said. “But we’ll do that at any position.”
McDaniels wanted more depth on the defensive line, and it appears he has that now.
“Certainly the defensive line that we had last year was very young and hadn’t started a lot of games in terms of overall experience,” McDaniels said. “We felt like if we could add some pieces there to give ourselves some experience, some people that had played maybe a little bit more, and then couple that with the group that we did play last year, because right now we feel like we’ve got great depth at the defensive line spot.
“We’ve got a lot of 20-something-year-old players behind some veterans now that have some experience. We felt like we got worn down a little bit as the season wore on. That’s not necessarily one player’s fault, or another player, but we didn’t feel like we had enough depth there. That’s something we wanted to do.”
– On nose tackle Jamal Williams, McDaniels said he is in great shape and fully recovered from a triceps injury that ended his 2009 season. He said he didn’t see any drop-off in Williams’ play in 2009 before he was injured.
“There was enough evidence there to say that this player hadn’t declined significantly from ’08 to ’09, and then the injury had totally healed and he’s ready to roll,” McDaniels said.
– Quarterback Brady Quinn’s knowledge of McDaniels’ offense should help him get up to speed quickly. McDaniels’ offense isn’t the same as Charlie Weis’ scheme (Weis was offensive coordinator in New England when McDaniels was on the staff, and Weis coached Quinn in college at Notre Dame) but is similar. McDaniels said he has not spoken to Weis about Quinn.
“I think the basis of the terminology, he probably knows 85 percent of the terms and the words we use and the routes and all those different kinds of things,” McDaniels said. “He was coached by the guy that really taught me. I think that’s something that’s going to be a positive for Brady.”
– McDaniels said he still considers restricted free agent receiver Brandon Marshall “a big part of our team” but has little control over whether another team signs him to an offer sheet.
“There’s nothing we can do,” McDaniels said. “We did what we did with all of our restricted free agents, we made those decisions, we placed the tenders on them and the process is out of our hands at this point.”
The Broncos showed they were willing to part with Marshall for a first-round pick when they gave him the first-round tender instead of a first- and third-round tender.
– McDaniels said the signing of cornerback Nathan Jones is not an indictment of second-year cornerback Alphonso Smith, who struggled as a rookie.
“Doesn’t change a thing,” McDaniels said. “We have high expectations for all of our young players. Nathan Jones is a player we felt could come in and improve our competition and depth. He has been a special teams player a defensive player, he has played safety. We love his versatility, we love his attitude. … I don’t think you can have enough competition at any spot and I think Nathan is going to come in with a great attitude and Alphonso is working hard. It is year two for a lot of our players and we expect definite improvement in a lot of areas.”
– The Broncos travel to London for a game against San Francisco on Oct. 31, a trip that disrupts a NFL team’s normal in-season routine. To prepare, McDaniels said he is already speaking to teams that have made that trip.
“We’ve talked to a lot of people, actually,” McDaniels said. “There’s a lot of ways to do different things. I think there’s no perfect way to do it. There’s no easy way to do it. We’re going to make our decisions about when we’re going over pretty soon. (Assistant to head coach) Mark (Thewes) has been over there, (vice president of operations) Chip (Conway) has been over there, so we’ve had a lot of people already involved in this process. We tried to gather as much information from other clubs as we could from the league.”