Broncos’ 2 first-rounders adjusting to NFL
AP Sports Writer
DENVER, Colorado – Knowshon Moreno’s imagination, not his legs, ran wild as he recently choreographed a creative skit that earned him top honors at a touchdown celebration competition.
Using the football as an imaginary chainsaw, the Denver Broncos’ rookie running back tugged on a string and then hacked down the goal post, even stepping aside as he pretended to give it room to tumble.
Just don’t expect to see an encore performance in a game, which would draw a flag and the wrath of coach Josh McDaniels.
But he’s got plenty of other moves – just as imaginative – stored away, waiting for their debut.
First though, he has to find a way to get into the end zone.
Moreno is currently running third behind LaMont Jordan and Correll Buckhalter as he absorbs McDaniels’ complicated offensive scheme.
Although it’s early, Moreno, the 12th pick in the NFL draft six weeks ago, feels like he’s making progress.
“I’m catching it, starting to get the hang of it,” said Moreno, who captured Upper Deck’s rookie touchdown celebration crown in Los Angeles last month by hauling out his hilarious stunt. “But at times I’m spinning a little bit.”
Moreno isn’t deterred by taking a back seat to Jordan and Buckhalter, who’ve each been in the league for nine seasons.
The talented tailback out of Georgia isn’t coming in with lofty expectations.
Sure, he wants to start. But he’s biding his time as he grasps the terminology of this complex offense.
“It’s still a learning stage for me,” Moreno said. “But I’m learning pretty well, learning from the vets, taking it in stride …. I think a lot of guys in the backfield can get the job done, any snap, anyone in that room. I’m trying to find my place and keep on learning.”
Fellow first-round pick Robert Ayers is digesting the defense rather quickly. Ayers, the 18th overall pick, has been splitting time between the first and second teams through passing camp.
“I think I’m doing pretty good,” Ayers said. “But there’s a lot of room for improvement.”
With the Broncos switching to a 3-4 scheme, Ayers will play more of a hybrid role as he alternates between lineman and linebacker.
He’s enjoying the challenge, even if it’s quite demanding with so many schemes to master.
“One thing I’ve learned in this defense is you can do a lot of different things from a lot of different formations,” Ayers said. “We can call one play and depending on what the offense comes out, we can have five or six different things we can do. That’s the biggest thing, not just knowing the play call, but that your assignment can change mid-play. That’s the biggest curve for me.”
With his relentless style of play, Ayers resembles fellow Tennessee product and former Broncos Pro Bowl linebacker Al Wilson.
He even wears Wilson’s familiar No. 56 – not that it was on purpose.
After the draft, Ayers asked for jersey No. 91, which he wore in college, but since that was taken, settled on 56.
Once he realized it was Wilson’s old jersey number, he called Wilson to get his blessing.
“He said it’s always good to have a guy from Tennessee representing him,” Ayers said. “I’m going to try to hold his number down and do the best I can. He told me just to play within myself, just give it all I got and I’ll be good. To hear that from him really meant a lot for me.”
Ayers isn’t comfortable with the comparisons to Wilson, becoming fidgety when the subject was broached.
“I could never be an Al Wilson whether I got his number, his cleats, whatever I put on of his,” Ayers said. “I’ll never be another Al Wilson. I’m just going to try to be Robert Ayers and play my game, and bring my type of intensity and do the things I do well …. That’s one of the things he told me, just be myself and that’s what I’m going to do.”
When Flacco drops back to pass, he earns respect without uttering a word, by displaying a gift that’s rare, even at the NFL level.