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Mile High Salute w/ Mike Koele: The Future Of The Broncos

February 16, 2009
Ryan Clady In Training Camp

Ryan Clady In Training Camp

After an up and down 2008 season I was left with a lot of feelings.  Disappointment, encouragement, bewilderment just to name a few.  I think what I came away with the most was a feeling of hope…and well before there was a change in regime within the organization.

The hope I have is due to 3 players that I think are keys to the future success of this franchise, and they may not be the 3 you think they should be.

Peyton Hillis, Eddie Royal and Ryan Clady are 3 special players that in my opinion will go a long way to bringing Denver back to the glory days.  This will likely bring a lot of criticism and debate, given the fact that Denver’s largest gap with the rest of the league comes on the defensive side of the ball.  There is no question that has to be an area that is addressed in the off season, however given the status quo I am saying that Denver will rise and fall as these 3 young men do.

The obvious impact player from this year out of this group, and possibly the entire team, is Ryan Clady.  Not only did this man-child of a rookie step into possibly the most important position on the offensive line as a starter…he did so in a dominating (and pro bowl worthy) manner.  Denver’s offensive line kept them in every game and rarely, if ever this year, caused the team to get behind the eight ball in any game.  It was easily the team’s most consistent area of play all year and it should be just as good next year.  Clady will be a pro bowl player for years to come, and if he stays healthy I would guess he will end up as one of the greatest to don the Orange and Blue.

When it comes to a dynamic player, I am not sure if Denver has seen someone as versatile and potentially game changing as rookie Eddie Royal was this last year.  Denver drafted him over the hype machine of DeSean Jackson and I think that left a lot of fans scratching their heads.  If anyone watched him play, they should have no further speculation that we made the right choice.  From the very first game, Royal was a dominating force against league veterans by throttling the Raider’s for 146 yards receiving and a touchdown.  

Forget the fact that he was drafted to boost special teams (which he certainly did), Royal finished second on the team only to the #1 wide out Brandon Marshall with 91 receptions for 980 yards and 5 touchdowns.  He also had 11 rushes for 109 yards including a 71 yarder.  This kid is simply nails, and is going to make a lot of coaches crazy when you consider having to cover a guy like him and Marshall.  The bottom line is, Denver needs to get this kid the ball in any way and they will succeed more than they fail.

Finally I have to recognize rookie running back/fullback/a whatever you ask him to play kind of player, Peyton Hillis.  I am not joking when I say that Denver has to keep this kid in the starting rotation in some way.  Denver seemed to play so well when he was in as he just seems to provide a spark and toughness that I have not seen from a running back since possibly Clinton Portis or Mike AndersonHillis was a backup to the highly touted Darren McFadden and I am going on record to say, Hillis is the better of the two. 

I cannot remember the last time since Portis was here that I felt like when Denver needed some tough yards that they would get them until Hillis started playing more.  Although he was injured eventually, he was by far and away Denver’s best option in the backfield whether it was blocking, receiving or running and I hope they remember that.  Hillis played in 12 games last year, starting 6 of them and ended up with 68 rushes for 343 yards and 5 touchdowns.  He also had 14 receptions for 170 yards and a touchdown.  All of this was with no fumbles, and a lot of pain issued to the opposition.  For those keeping score, he was the leading rusher in yards and touchdowns, and only second to Michael Pittman in rushes by 8.  He averaged 5 yards a carry,  not bad for a rookie that backed up a top draft choice in college eh?

The moral of the story here Bronco Nation is, keep your head up.  With the new coaches, probable new defensive scheme, a good draft and hopefully a solid and smart free agency period I think we have a lot to look forward to.  I think these 3 young men will go a very long way to making sure that is a reailty.

Mike Koele is a member of the Bronco Madness staff. You can visit his own blog at Broncos 365, and Tailgate 365

  1. Josh Vitale permalink
    February 16, 2009 5:33 PM

    Nice column Mike. I love those three guys, and I think your right about what they can do for this team. In a perfect world, the Broncos will get three more guys like this in the draft this year, except they would all be defenders. That would be special.

  2. February 16, 2009 7:02 PM

    Thanks Josh and I could not agree more, I am hoping they find some hard working defenders in the draft as well. We need young talent that grows with each other and the organization. A free agent here and there is cool, but looking at the list let go today I would say the experimenting should be over.

  3. Josh Vitale permalink
    February 17, 2009 5:12 AM

    Absolutely. I think the idea of bringing in veterans that other teams don’t want anymore and putting them into starting roles is ridiculous. I would rather the Broncos have a bad year on defense starting 5 rookies than have a bad year on D starting five washed 30-year-olds. I’m hoping for BJ Raji or Rey Maualuga in the 1st.

  4. Jon Krause permalink
    February 17, 2009 4:09 PM

    Three beast

  5. February 17, 2009 5:22 PM

    Either Raji or Maualuga would work well in a (alleged) 3-4, tough call. I was hoping the safety from USC was coming out…that kid is Atwater 2.0

    With Bly going today it makes 12 people gone so far, I am more anxious for the off season this year than I have been in a long time

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