January 27, 2009 4:13 PM
Broncos Inbox -- Jan. 28
Welcome, the Broncos Inbox is open and leading off is a double dip on a certain linebacker in the draft . . .
There's Chris Snyder is Salt Lake City . . .
Q: Think Denver will go with Rey Maualuga if he's available?
And John Grauberger in Normal, Ill.,
Q: . . . I've got my hopes set on Rey Maualuga, but it sounds as though B.J. Raji (lit) it up in Mobile, as well. I think Denver needs more than just the physical ability of guys like this -- it needs their attitude, their nastiness. Watching the defenses of Baltimore and Pittsburgh, I wasn't even sure Denver had the right to say it was in the same league.
A: After sifting through the pile of e-mails Maualuga, who was one of three USC linebackers who were at the Senior Bowl, is easily one of the most popular choices for the Broncos to select in the April draft.
Most scouts believe Maualuga played at over 260 pounds this past season and some have pointed to the Trojans' loss to Oregon State as a game when he didn't get off blocks as well as he could have.
However, he showed up at the Senior Bowl is good shape - he weighed in at 254 pounds - and moved well in both individual and team drills. I talked to several linebacker coaches from around the league and they liked what they saw.
What he has, from a scouting perspective, is the ability to strike when he finishes a tackle. Some guys just have it, that explosiveness from the legs and hips to close out a tackle.
Those types of players force a lot of fumbles and do not surrender many yards after contact. At his best Maualuga is that kind of player.
If the Broncos go to a 3-4 look on defense, as is expected, Maualuga would certainly be a fit at one of the inside spots. He moves well enough to defend both sides of the field and is strong enough to hold up to the run inside.
If he runs well in his workouts, however, the Broncos may have a difficult time getting him with the 12th pick, just like getting Raji there would be difficult if the Senior Bowl practices are any indication. It is the best class of linebackers, at least going into the workout season, that has been available in some time.
It could push people up the board some once the first one comes off, which is expected to be Wake Forest's Aaron Curry. Curry did not go to the Senior Bowl because, in short, he didn't have to.
I have yet to speak to a team that didn't have him at the top of their list of linebackers at the moment. Curry is likely a top five pick if he works out as is expected.
Maualuga's teammate, Trojans' linebacker Brian Cushing, is expected to be a first-round pick as well. He played a bigger variety of spots in the Trojans defense than Maualuga did.
At one point early in his career, to get Cushing on the field, Trojans coach Pete Carroll put Cushing at defensive end to rush out of a three-point stance.
The class at linebacker is deep enough the Broncos could certainly get some productive players at position after the first round. But they won't be able to wait, as they could have in some other drafts, even at 12 to get one of the top three or so.
And in keeping with the draft, Brad via e-mail asked . . .
Q: I was wondering if the Broncos are looking for a backup center. I watched a center this year and think he may be a sleeper in the draft. Have you heard of Adam Korby, University of Idaho center?
A: Korby, a native of Fort Collins (Poudre High School), just finished his career this past season with 47 consecutive starts in four years where his team had just nine wins combined.
Twenty-three of those losses came in the last two seasons including the team's 2-12 finish this past season and 1-11 in 2007. So, his durability in the middle of all that struggle around him will certainly work in his favor.
His game against USC nose tackle Sedrick Ellis - a 38-7 USC win in '07 - has been reviewed and will be reviewed again before the draft.
Most teams had him among the top 25 centers in the nation before the season started. So he could end up with a draftable grade, but it would be a second-day pick at best for most teams.
However the teams that use a more movement friendly system like the Broncos have used in the past would be more apt to look at him. At roughly 6-3, 285 pounds, he's smaller than some of the other centers on the board and some were concerned about his quickness.
But there is plenty of time and a few workouts for Korby to deal with that and move himself up the board. But a guy who has played that much football that well for a team that struggled as mightily as Idaho has a lot going in his favor as well.
Teams look at those types of things too.
A.P. Crisafi, a regular, also had an eye on the draft, asking . . .
Q: Now that the dust has settled, can you tell us about Jim Goodman? Is he the person that's going to pick the draft choices and free agents?
A: Goodman, who is in his 12th season with the Broncos, having moved up from being an area scout responsible for the South to coordinating the scouting department to his current position running the team's football operations.
With Mike Shanahan's firing it is Goodman who now has the final say on personnel. Owner Pat Bowlen said almost immediately after Shanahan's firing that the team's personnel department would stay in place and that it was Goodman who would be at the top of the flow chart, answering only to Bowlen.
Bowlen said his thinking was he liked the team's recent drafts, especially 2006 and 2008, which comprised the core of this year's team.
Goodman was one of the Shanahan's most trusted confidants, even when Ted Sundquist was the team's general manager Goodman's opinion carried a lot of weight in how the team conducted its draft business.
So it isn't that big a jump to Goodman's new role, it's just where, in terms of public opinion, the arrows used to point to Shanahan, they now point to Goodman. So being in the public eye a little more could be an adjustment for him.
Jonathan Peress looked at McDaniels' staff . . .
Q: All the people that Josh McDaniels hired for (the Broncos) defensive coaching staff, excluding Mike Nolan, were from AFC West teams. It leads me to asking this specific question: Did Bill Belichick do the same thing with the Patriots where he hired some people on to their coaching staff from all the other AFC East teams while they went on their run for winning three Super Bowls from 2001-2004?
A: In hiring a linebackers coach (Don Martindale) from the Raiders, a defensive line coach (Wayne Nunnely) from the Chargers and a special teams coach (Mike Priefer) from the Chiefs, he did indeed raid his new division foes.
However, I don't think it was an effort to specifically get assistants from division teams rather than the other teams in the division had enough uncertainty on their coaching staffs that those guys were available.
The Chiefs assistant coaches all believed they would be fired and the Raiders are almost perpetually in a state of flux and haven't decided on a head coach yet.
Nunnely has also worked plenty with a 3-4 defense so that worked in his favor as well.
But Nolan, who also has put in plenty of time coaching a 3-4 defense, was available after being fired from being the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers and secondary coach Ed Donatell - a former defensive coordinator with the Packers - was at the University of Washington.
So, McDaniels has some variety on the staff, but the defense does have some AFC West flavor.
Jamie Petersen took an early look into the backfield . . .
Q: Do you think Peyton Hillis will be the feature back next season and do you think he could take the beating to be a featured back? I feel he is the best back Denver has had since Clinton Portis.
A: With so many running backs coming off injuries that ended their seasons, the training room may determine who starts training camp and the regular season as the featured back.
Also, you have to take into account the coaching change. All of the backs will basically be starting from zero in McDaniels' offense. While running backs coach Bobby Turner remains on the staff and McDaniels will certainly solicit his opinions about the rotation of players, the players are still going to have to get acclimated to a new playbook.
So, the combination of those two things will set the order. Hillis was certainly headed for plenty of carries if Mike Shanahan had remained in charge.
He showed good power running and was a quality finisher, usually closing runs with good forward lean. He avoided negative yardage and is consistent catching the ball as well.
His game is power so he will take some hits along the way. That would be a difficult thing at 300 carries year after year. Not many players would consistently hold up to that kind of punishment.
Certainly Hillis could be part of a rotation, kind of a power-speed look. However, I think, after seeing him in the lead role this past season, with the kind of pounding that he took, it would be difficult for him to sustain that over a 16-game season at 25 carries a game. Not that it couldn't be done, but it would be difficult.
Ryan Torain is coming off ACL surgery so it's unlikely he would be ready to go by the start of the season. But he figures to be in the mix at some point as well.
Terrell Davis said Tuesday at the Super Bowl that the Broncos players think it is Torain who has the talent and physical attributes to be the main guy. His problem in both college and the NFL has been injuries.
He played just one half of football last season.
As far as where the offense goes now it's good to look at what the Patriots have done in McDaniels' time there. Whether it be injuries, philosophy or just a testament to the depth chart, the Patriots had just one season since the start of 2003 where a running back had more than 210 carries in a season.
So in the offense where McDaniels has spent his time the workload in the backfield has been largely spread out over several players.
When the Patriots had a productive, healthy Corey Dillon they did lean on him plenty - 345 carries in '04, for example - but in recent seasons, even with first-round pick Laurence Maroney, they split the work, again either because of injury or by choice.
It remains to be seen how it would go in the Denver offense, but that's what he's been involved with elsewhere.
Jimmy Moore in Windsor, Ontario, wondered about the passing offense . . .
Q: When you consider what the Patriots have done on offense the last few seasons, how do Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal fit into Coach McDaniels' scheme? Do you think it is safe to assume that Brandon will have 20 touchdowns and Eddie will have a 110-catch season next year?
A: They're certainly going to throw the ball plenty with McDaniels calling the shots. Whether they reach the 600-plus attempts again, as they did this past season, will mean they have drifted some from the run-first philosophy they've had over the years.
Marshall has put up back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl, but he has to elevate his game with the extra attention he has received from defenses.
Especially in the scoring zone. As big and physical as he is, he had stretches of four, three and three games without a touchdown catch and a stretch of eight games with just one touchdown catch.
That is his next hurdle. He gets frustrated when defenses rotate his way and he has to fight through it without losing his composure. Opposing defensive backs believe when he gets frustrated he drops more balls because he loses some concentration.
This year he dropped 14 or so and spent a lot of the year frustrated with the coverage he saw. But the elite receivers deal with that kind of attention every week and continue to find ways to battle through.
Twenty touchdowns is a lofty goal, maybe too lofty. Considering 12 touchdowns led the league, 10 may be a more reasonable benchmark for Marshall right now.
Royal has the potential to be a 100-catch receiver because he knows how to get off the jam and gets separation out of the five-yard contact zone. That's why he got acclimated more quickly to the pro game faster than a lot of receivers.
That's the biggest reason why year after year rookie receivers can't function like they did in college. In college the top receivers repeatedly play against off coverage with defensive backs afraid the receivers are going to run by him.
They don't get that luxury in the NFL. Guys get right in their faces and it's a huge adjustment. It's why only two wide receivers since the start of the 2000 seasons have finished with 1,000 yards in their rookie seasons.
McDaniels figures to put the ball in the air and over the last two seasons the Patriots worked the ball into the slot for the catches - Wes Welker had back-to-back 100 catch seasons - and then pushed the ball to the outside for touchdowns, to Randy Moss.
Marshall, though he does not have Moss' speed in the open field, and Royal could fit that profile. But they have to continue to get themselves free at the line of scrimmage and continue to adjust to what they see from defenses.
That's it and thanks . . .