Defense Broncos focus in draft
ENGLEWOOD Josh McDaniels has serious work to do to win back some of the Denver Broncos fans who arent happy he chased off Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler just three months into the job.McDaniels can begin to earn their trust this weekend by turning the bevy of draft picks he garnered into gold in the NFL draft.The Bears sent the Broncos a starting quarterback in Kyle Orton and two first-round draft picks, one this year and one next, and a third-rounder for Cutler and a fifth-round draft pick. So the Broncos own five of the first 84 draft picks, including the 12th and 18th in the first round Saturday.First of all, it gives us a lot of flexibility, McDaniels said. The more you can have the better off you are, because if you need to maneuver to try to get some players you really feel good about, you have the ammunition to go do some of those things.McDaniels suggested the Broncos will take a quarterback in the draft although not necessarily one of the big names early on to compete with Orton and free agent Chris Simms for the starting job.Weve evaluated all the quarterbacks in the draft and theres more than a handful that are pretty good players that would be able to fit in and play well in this league and for our team, said McDaniels, who earned his stripes coaching the offense in New England, where Tom Brady (sixth) and Matt Cassel (seventh) were drafted late.McDaniels said he wont go after a guy who will just hold a clipboard and watch Orton and Simms duke it out for snaps.You certainly would love to have a third quarterback that could be competitive, McDaniels said. Thats the big thing is were not just looking to bring players in here at positions just to fill a spot. If the guy can compete and actually have a chance to win a role on our team, then were all for it.After a tumultuous start to his tenure, McDaniels, who turns 33 this week, will get to show what he learned from Bill Belichick in New England.Hell be running the draft along with rookie GM Brian Xanders, 37, who replaced Jim and Jeff Goodman, architects of several solid drafts, in the second big front-office shakeup of the offseason.Theyll try to refurbish their front seven, especially the line, where theres a decent pool of hybrid defensive ends who can fit into the Broncos new 3-4 scheme, but also a thin crop of nose tackles.Were definitely interested in adding those kinds of players to our roster, McDaniels said.He said he feels like he has a jump-start in that regard with the return to health of defensive tackle Carlton Powell, a fifth-rounder from Mike Shanahans final draft last year who tore an Achilles tendon during offseason conditioning and sat out his rookie year.McDaniels also re-signed defensive tackle Kenny Peterson and signed free agent defensive tackles Darrell Reid and JVonne Parker.With the extra minicamp allowed for new coaching staffs, McDaniels held his a week before the draft, and some of what he saw will shape the Broncos approach next weekend.Weve got a lot of film now to watch. Weve learned some things about some people, McDaniels said Sunday. Its hard to learn a lot when youre not out here hitting and really doing those kinds of things, particularly up front.McDaniels is hoping he wont have to select a wide receiver too early.Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who is recovering from hip surgery, is awaiting word from commissioner Roger Goodell on possible punishment for ending up on the police blotter again. He got into a fight with his fiance in Atlanta last month. Although charges were dropped, the NFL metes out its discipline separate from the nations judicial process, and a conviction isnt a prerequisite for a suspension.Marshall sat out last seasons opener after seven police-related incidents with his former girlfriend. He talked Goodell into reducing his original suspension of three games by promising to keep his nose clean and working with kids in the community.The Broncos feel that no predraft news from the commissioners office on this matter is good news. The thinking is that if Marshall were going to get a lengthy suspension, theyd learn about it this week so they could draft accordingly.On his way out the door, Shanahan practically begged his successor to keep the leagues No. 2 offense intact. That obviously didnt happen with Cutlers departure, but beyond that, McDaniels didnt see his offense in the same light.While Cutler & Co. were great between the 20s, they were middle of the road in points scored last year, and McDaniels brought in three free agents to compete with holdover running backs Ryan Torain, Peyton Hillis and Selvin Young, all coming off injuries.Although the 2008 defense ranked at or near the bottom in every major category, the Broncos have signed eight free agents on that side of the ball. So McDaniels just might use some of his 10 draft picks this weekend on surprising areas.Ive said from the first moment I landed in Denver that our goal was to improve the team, McDaniels said. We have significant improvement to do on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game.
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