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Broncos’ coordinators pleased with drafted rookies at minicamp

Sam Cowhick Avatar
May 9, 2016

Saturday the Denver Broncos coordinators spoke for the first time since acquiring a multitude of rookie players and after two days of rookie minicamp, they like what they see.

The key word that seems to pop up from general manager John Elway on down to special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis is “versatility” and according to the coaches their 2016 draft class full of it.

“I think both of them are versatile. Both of them can play free or strong safety,” defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said of safety draft picks Justin Simmons and Will Parks Saturday. “Both of them are good tacklers. But they’re also good cover guys. That’s kind of what we like as a safety. We don’t go towards the box safety that much where you can only play inside and you put him covering somebody. The way we pick safeties, basically guys that are versatile. Those two guys are versatile, so that’s why they were picked.”

The Broncos lost several players to free agency in the offseason, a fact that has not escaped Phillips but also does not worry him, and their replacements on defense very well may be the youth practicing this weekend. Parks and Simmons have already begun creating a chemistry with each other before they meet the rest of the team next week.

“I think we are doing a pretty good job of the first two days pushing each other and communicating out there, giving each other calls and pushing each other in the film room. We are also roommates now so that will give us a certain edge as far as going out there and playing at the same level. Not only getting us better but making everybody out there better with us.”

Defensive lineman and second-round pick, Adam Gotsis also spoke to the media after Phillips Saturday and although he is still recovering from a knee injury, he certainly impressed the longtime coach prior to his selection in the draft last week.

“This kid has very good instincts,” Phillips said of Gotsis. “He finds the ball really well. He’s a brute on the field. He’s very physical. Like I said, he’s adapted to American-style football really well. He started as a freshman at Georgia Tech and he had never really played.”

Gotsis admitted that he does not have a timetable for a return to the field quite yet but does believe he will fit in well with his new teammates. Gotsis and Jared Crick will join Kenny Annunike, Vance Walker and Derek Wolfe along the interior of the defensive line. Gotsis will be relying on his new team doctors to get him back on the field as soon as possible.

“Really any position I think I can play well at. I think here they see me as a very versatile guy that can play across the front, that can play the five [technique], the three [technique], the shade and really anywhere. We’re in so many sub-packages and stuff now in the NFL, you have to be versatile to play. I’m just trying to get healthy and then take that one step at a time.”

Devontae Booker joined the team on the field after missing Friday’s practice to graduate from the University of Utah and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison likes his physical nature and what he adds to the running back position that is returning two starters.

“He’s a good, strong runner and a tough player,” Dennison said Saturday. “We threw him out there after one meeting and it was just a walkthrough. I think he just gives us a good chance to play [him]. He’s a good football player. We like to add good football players and see which ones play.”

For Booker, his fall to the fourth round of the draft was likely due to a knee injury but was a familiar slight saying, “this isn’t anything new to me.” But his drop to the middle of the draft allowed the Broncos to grab him and place him in a zone-blocking run scheme he seems to like already.

“I feel like it fits me a lot. It’s like a one-cut scheme. That’s what I like doing anyway. Make one cut and go. Get my shoulders downhill and make a move on the defender,” he said.

Several of the Broncos drafted players and undrafted signees will likely have the best chance of seeing the field in 2016 on special teams and one drafted player in particular, is excited at that possibility.

“I’m going to go out there and give it my all,” fullback and special teams star at the University of Nebraska, Andy Janovich said Saturday. “I would like to be a core special teams player and get out there and be on all of them. You have to take the field every day with the mentality that you’re going to beat the guy in front of you.”

Special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis was just happy Janovich was still available at 176th overall in the draft and believes he is ready to be plugged into special teams immediately.

“He’s a core special-teamer,” DeCamillis declared. “This guy is already a guy that—a lot of times when you’re evaluating guys in college, you don’t see them play in the kicking game unless it was their freshman year, part of their sophomore year or whatever. This guy did it all four years and was effective all four years. Out of all the guys we got, I was definitely nervous when he went past a certain round because I definitely wanted to see him there.”

Dennison also liked adding a fullback to the roster in the draft due to what Janovich can add to the offensive playbook options.

“Obviously, it gives us more options. There is a whole set of plays that we can run with two backs that we didn’t run very much of last year. That just opens it up and gives us a little bit more for the defense to have to worry about,” he said.

Certainly an exclusive special teams player is the punter, Riley Dixon. The seventh-round pick out of Syracuse will push Britton Colquitt for the starting job and if he ultimately wins it, he would save the team $3.25 million of Colquitt’s $4 million 2016 salary. While DeCamillis praised Colquitt Saturday he also commented on Dixon’s skill set.

“We obviously see a good player. We had some inside information, too, because [Special Teams Coaching Assistant] Chris Gould is here. He was there with him at Syracuse,” he said. “We think he’s got a chance to be a really good punter in the National Football League and that’s why we took him. It’s going to be a competitive situation because in my opinion—I got up here a few times last year and people were railing on [P] Britton [Colquitt], but I can tell you one thing, there wasn’t a better guy in the playoffs. I can promise you that. He helped us win games in the playoffs. It’s going to be a heck of a competition.”

Saturday Dixon also took a moment to praise the Broncos’ punter of the last seven seasons.

“I’ve always looked up to Britton as a punter these last couple of years,” Dixon said. “I’ve watched as much film on him [as I could]. He’s an amazing punter and he’s looking to do the same thing I always do: keep kicking footballs and let the rest handle itself.”

The Broncos’ rookies along with some second-year players got the first chance to stretch their legs and begin learning the playbook on the field and how to be a professional off of it this week. Although they are young, the coaching staff certainly will be looking for them to assimilate quickly and contribute. The ones the do so fastest will play regardless of NFL experience and on a defending Super Bowl Champion team, that is quite an opportunity.

“I think we do a good job of getting our guys exposed to a lot of information quickly with the rookie camp. With the OTAs, we put them in there with the veterans whenever we can. If they develop and they are ready to go and they can help us win then that’s who is going to play.”


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