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Denver Broncos March Scouting Report
Charles Rives

HC Nathaniel Hackett officially added the final two coordinators to his staff in late February. He named Ejiro Evero as defensive coordinator and Dwayne Stukes as special teams coordinator. He also officially hired Marcus Dixon as the team's defensive line coach. QB Coach Klint Kubiak on quarterbacks: "Decision-making, timing, and accuracy are the three things you really focus on with quarterbacks." Hackett: The three main traits you look for in a quarterback: toughness (mentally and physically), intelligence and accuracy-and then if you’re lucky, you get an athletic guy, too. Last season, the Broncos were not good enough at stopping the run or getting after the quarterback with their defensive front seven. Paton cannot ignore how poor the team was last season upfront and needs to focus on getting better in the trenches.




The Broncos will get better, more consistent play at the quarterback position with Russell Wilson. Wilson has a solid young core around him plus some more youngster who could step up their game. The last thing that the Broncos wanted to do was to continue repeating the bad habit of high turnover from players and coaches at any level. With the addition of Wilson, Hackett should correct both problems. OC Outten: "Working with Hackett the last three years his commitment to each and every guy on that staff—even if it was across the ball—he was really big into developing guys and making them the best versions of themselves." HC Nathaniel Hackett was hired to fix the offense with whatever quarterback is under center. His offense has to fit the roster Denver has, not a roster they wish they had (Rodgers). Hackett’s offense will run mostly out of 11 and 12 personnel and look to simplify the personnel and scheme. He favors a zone blocking scheme, but features the duo play (power without puller) which is hard to tell from inside zone (Melvin Gordon III’s forte). Duo attempts to create a double team and allow the running back to read the Mike linebacker to make his cut after initially aiming for the outside leg of the play side guard. Duo should maximize RB Javonte Williams power running and minimize his questionable vision which is a liability in the outside zone. Hackett’s drop back passing game will focus on isolating his number one wide receiver (Jeudy?) and making him the first read in the quarterback’s progression. Choice is a 1-man route for a talented route runner that can be tagged onto the backside of other concepts. It’s essentially a slant/out depending on the defensive back’s play. Boot actions and RPOs are also a necessary quarterback requirement in Hackett’s scheme. The most widely used play on boots and roll outs – is Sail (and its multiple variations). Sail overloads one side of the defense with three routes at three different depths. Kyle Shanahan loves to run outside zone one way and the Sail concept back the other. However, the one thing that can kill the Shanahan play-action is pressure.




On defense, Denver must find a way to create more turnovers and get critical stops. There were several games last season that could have ended in a Denver win, if they’d made one final stop. Denver must make the critical plays. Consistency will be a big piece for the Broncos as will accountability. Under Vic Fangio players, coaches, and other personnel were never held accountable or they were "excused". DC Evero: "The process has got to be consistent. I think when the players feel that the coaches are consistent, their teaching methods are the same, our flow as we go through the week as the same, our approach, whether it’s a high or a low, a win or loss is the same. We’re about correcting, we’re about demanding and we’re about teaching." Evero’s defense will look like a 3-4 defense in its base, but he will deploy a variety of alignments and fronts. With his sub-packages, there will be four-down fronts. He will also use different people to do some different things. Evero will have many different types of packages and find ways to capitalize on the versatile skill sets of individual players. He wasn't hired to duplicate what the Broncos did last year. He was brought in to win and to win a championship. Special Teams People need to feel a sense of happiness and fulfillment in life, especially at work. STC Stukes: "I would say is you have to have fun while you’re doing it. This is a job, but we’re all blessed to be here, in my opinion," Stukes said. "It’s football at the end of the day. It’s about teaching, tackling, blocking, etc., and what I learned from my experience in LA. We bonded together—not only as a coaching staff, but the players actually enjoyed being around each other. There was really no rift within that locker room. Guys hung out outside of it which I think is important. Coaches did things outside of football which I think is important because you get to know people and how they are outside of football. It’s not just football". Injuries WR K J Hamler is "doing really well" in his rehab process. Paton is "very confident" that OLB Bradley Chubb pick will return to elite form.




The combine has value, but it has has become "made for TV" content, created by the NFL’s marketing and revenue arm and is viewed as a necessary evil by most NFL teams. Interviews: what you can get in a 15-minute interview is minimal and is really about how a player handles the process (attitude, focus, communication skills, personality and body language). Physicals: The most important part of the combine is the medical information.


The Work Outs:


They are glorified and stretched out for as many days as possible for ratings and TV purposes. Quarterback workouts are too much risk and not enough reward. Running back workouts are valuable to see who can run a route and who has receiving skills that are a good fit for the NFL. Wide receiver work out are good to judge body control, route running technique and to evaluate for hands/catch radius and burst off a plant as an adjunct to film evaluation. Offensive Linemen workouts can show athleticism, but nothing else of value for football. Defensive Linemen workouts show athletic traits that are already on film and the drills don’t transfer to the football field. Linebacker workouts can show speed and burst for comparisons but, instincts, reading and reacting, and physical contact are missing and athletic ability can be overvalued. Defensive Backs workouts give some useful information from the drills where you can measure foot speed, in a backpedal retreat, body control when turning to run deep or break on crossing route, general hip flexibility and ball skills. However, information and relationships are a big part of team building and the combine is a valuable part of the process. The 2022 Combine had multiple records set: average fastest player 4.71 seconds; 31 players with a sub 4.4 forty; and, the fastest RB, WR, OL, DL, LB and DB groups in NFL history. Overall the draft class is stronger than many people think (and they are fast). The Broncos met with quarterbacks Kenny Pickett, Matt Corrral, Malik Willis, Sam Howell, Kaleb Eleby and offensive tackle Bernhard Raimann.


Free Agency


It's critical to fill roster needs in free agency, prior to building and developing the nucleus of the team via the draft. With the addition of Russell Wilson, Denver is once again a choice spot for free agents. Potential free agents: T Cornelius Lucas is a very capable swing tackle, WR Braxton Berrios could be a cost-effective target to add value in the slot and on return teams. DI Tim Settle is intriguing as a potential rotational interior pass-rusher. WR Valdes-Scantling has juice on the outside. T Germain Ifedi is a low end right tackle. DI B. J. Hill is good run defender and is OK in the passing game. SS Jayron Kearse could solve problem of "wide receiver" tight ends. T Morgan Moses is a starting option at right tackle. C Ben Jones is one of the best centers in the NFL. G James Daniels fits Hackett’s zone blocking scheme and is a top pass-blocker. The Broncos are rumored to be willing to spend "decent money" on free agent edge rushers. Paton is talking with the Broncos’ free agents and gauging where he/they are in terms of resigning: S Kareem Jackson; nickel CB Bryce Callahan; ILB Josey Jewell; ILB Alexander Johnson; ILB Kenny Young; RB Melvin Gordon III. However, no decision has been made on TE Noah Fant's fifth-year option. Denver has traded for Seattle QB Russell Wilson. Right tackle is the number one need on the offensive line and needs to be addressed immediately (Morgan Moses?). The also will need tight end help/depth (Gronk would be a fun pick up). Paton now needs to focus on what else he can do: Tender ERFAs: QB Brett Rypien, ILB Jonas Griffith, and S PJ Locke. Tender RFAs: OLB Malik Reed, OT Calvin Anderson and DL DeShawn Williams. He also needs to let all other free agents hit the open market. Draft There are almost two months before the draft, and there are many variables in play for Denver that might change their plans. Paton values draft picks and believes that the more picks you have, the better. However, with the trade for Russell Wilson, it will be interesting to see how the draft goes.


Denver's unofficial draft picks after the Wilson trade: Round 2: From the Rams Round 3: Own pick
Round 3: From the Rams
Round 4: Own pick
Round 4: From Seattle
Round 5: From the lions
Round 6: From the Eagles
Round 7: From the 49ers
Round 7: From the Lions




Traded with Seattle for QB Russell Wilson. Traded QB Drew Lock, TE Noah Fant and DL Shelby Harris to Seattle. Released WR DaeSean Hamilton.




Anyone bidding for Denver’s NFL franchise must have their financing in order at the time of bidding.


Salary Cap


GM George Paton initiated trade talks with Seattle for Wilson at least a couple of weeks before the Wilson deal was struck. Wilson will count $24 million against the salary cap in 2022. Denver has approximately $22.5 million remaining. The trade created approximately $8.6 million in dead money for the Broncos.


Orangeman’s Take


Hackett’s idea of success is having explosive plays on offense, getting takeaways on defense, and special teams getting yards and making explosive plays. To be clear, Hackett will run the Shanahan offense which is not the west coast offense. Mike Shanahan was an innovator, like Bill Walsh, and created his own offense. The West Coast Offense is a conservative, ball-control offense. The Shanahan Offense is an aggressive, big-play offense which uses running plays to set up deep play-action passes. The goal of the Shanahan Offense is to create big plays and avoid third downs. Mike Shanahan developed his scheme in Denver by replacing Dan Reeves’ philosophy (smash-mouth up the gut runs to set deep play-action passes) with out-side zone runs to set up his deep play-action passes. Kyle Shanahan has continued the offense’s evolution by integrating cutting edge college plays to his basic wide-zone scheme. Like most NFL offenses, the Shanahan Offense, uses some Bill Walsh’s concepts and terminology. QB Russell Wilson has the talents and mental toughness to survive in Denver, but the pressure will be on. Bronco country is already talking about returning to the Super Bowl, the expectation in Denver isn’t about making the playoffs, it’s hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. It might be wise to temper expectations in year one with so many changes, but never the less, Denver is relevant again. They’ll win 10-plus games, make the playoffs and are contenders again.


Fantasy Outlook


The Broncos have the makings of a top receiving corps if they can stay healthy (Jeudy and Hamler). Sutton should be 100% in year two after his injury. Patrick is a big-body target. They fit together schematically for a potent offense. There is no receiver on the roster that can run routes like Jeudy and he could become the preferred target in this offense. A third-year leap is something many wide receivers do. TE Albert O is the number one tight end with high up side. QB Russell Wilson and RB Javonte Williams complement each other and will flourish in Hackett’s offense.


Nathaniel Hackett’s coaching staff: Head coach: Nathaniel Hackett Assistant to head coach: Derek Haithcock Instructional designer: John Vieira Offense Offensive coordinator: Justin Outten Passing game coordinator/QBs: Klint Kubiak Running backs: Tyrone Wheatley Wide receivers: Zach Azzanni Offensive line: Butch Barry Assistant offensive line: Ben Steele Tight ends: Jake Moreland Offensive quality control: Ramon Chinyoung Offensive quality control: Zack Grossi Marlin Briscoe Diversity Coaching Fellow: Mateo Kambui Defense Defensive coordinator: Ejiro Evero Senior defensive assistant: Dom Capers Defensive backs: Christian Parker Assistant defensive backs: Ola Adams Defensive line: Marcus Dixon Linebackers: Peter Hansen Outside linebackers: Bert Watts To-be-announced role: Bill Kollar Defensive quality control: AC Carter Defensive assistant: DeAndre Thompson Special teams and strength coaches Special teams coordinator: Dwayne Stukes Assistant special teams: Mike Mallory Head strength and conditioning: Loren Landow Assistant strength and conditioning: Korey Jones Assistant strength and conditioning: Pierre Ngo


More to come next month!



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