Broncos adjust to new offense, defense systems
DENVER, Colorado ” For good or bad, Denver Broncos coach Josh McDaniels got a firsthand look over the weekend at what he has to work with as he tries to reconstruct a team that has suffered through a winter of turmoil and several seasons of mediocrity.
With the extra minicamp allowed for new coaching staffs, McDaniels held his a week before the draft. Some of what he saw will shape the Broncos’ approach next weekend when he and rookie general manager Brian Xanders dip into the college pool of talent after adding 16 free agents.
“We’ve got a lot of film now to watch. We’ve learned some things about some people,” McDaniels said Sunday. “It’s hard to learn a lot when you’re not out here hitting and really doing those kinds of things, particularly up front.”
The Broncos’ priorities in the draft include refurbishing the front seven as McDaniels switches to a 3-4 defense, and adding a quarterback to compete with Kyle Orton and Chris Simms following the April 2 trade of Pro Bowl passer Jay Cutler to Chicago that ended six weeks of acrimony.
With several inches of wet, heavy snow covering the fields at Dove Valley, the Broncos held their workout inside their bubble for the third straight day, and once again McDaniels gravitated to his quarterbacks.
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He watched their every move alongside offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.
“We run an up-tempo minicamp here, a lot of teaching going on,” said Orton, who came over in the Cutler trade. “Coach McDaniels and coach McCoy are very good teachers. They’ve had a lot of success coaching quarterbacks in this league. I know Chris and I are just trying to be like a sponge and absorb everything they’re giving us.”
McDaniels, who tutored Tom Brady and Matt Cassel in New England before replacing Mike Shanahan in Denver, has declared his quarterback competition wide open. While it would appear Orton is the front-runner, it was clear Sunday that Simms has the stronger arm.
But they appeared about equal in every other aspect.
McDaniels said last week that he doesn’t have a timetable for naming his starter, and he has suggested he’ll select a quarterback in the draft.
Learning a new system, even one as complex as McDaniels’, doesn’t faze Orton.
“There’s plenty of teams around the league with new systems and plenty of new quarterbacks who have to learn new systems,” he said. “It’s nothing overly challenging or overly special, just come in and put the work in. It’s not rocket science.”
But it does take some smarts.
“I’m not going to say I’m Albert Einstein but I’m a pretty smart guy,” said Simms. “They’ve shown they like guys with a little size and I can throw it pretty good, too, so those are all strengths for being in this system.”
While the offense learns the intricacies of the system, the defense, chock full of new faces, is adjusting to new styles and philosophies as well.
With the transition to the 3-4 scheme, some players such as Elvis Dumervil, who has always rushed the passer and never had to backpedal, are adjusting to drastically different roles.
“It was kind of shocking at first to see him drop out of there, him and Tim Crowder … They looked like linebackers,” Wesley Woodyard said.
Safety Brian Dawkins said he’s glad he’s going through the learning curve with so many other newcomers.
“We’re going through the same bumps and bruises, if you will, and mistakes, all that good stuff, together,” Dawkins said.
Dawkins signed on Feb. 28, the same day the Cutler feud erupted when the quarterback learned McDaniels had talked about trading him.
Asked if he would still have come to Denver had he known Cutler was on his way out, Dawkins said he signed because of McDaniels, not Cutler.
“I played against the things that they’ve done with the Patriots for years and I totally respect it,” Dawkins said. “Whoever is going to be our quarterback we’re going to rally behind that person and we’re going to move forward. That’s who we are now, the Broncos, and there’s a quarterback battle going on.”