On a team, and I mean team, of hardworking, smart, and tough players, it’s difficult to single out individuals who have been galloping the extra mile. There are the usual suspects; the ones that are known for their tireless work ethic and dedication to the game.
On that list you would have to include players like Brian Dawkins, Champ Bailey, Brady Quinn, Daniel Graham, and Mario Haggen to name a few. Also receiving honorable mention, is Tim Tebow.
His well documented obsessive work ethic will only surprise his irrational detractors; not those who are students of the game.
Besides who needs another “Tebow” story?
I have picked out a few players that because of their hard work, attitude and improved game as a result, just might surprise the league and Broncos fans alike.
My first entry is beginning to come out from under the shadow of obscurity and into the light: Robert Ayers. Robert actually flew under the radar last year. He has already been labeled a bust by many both in and outside of Mile High country but I contend that Ayers play last year, while not as flashy as Dumervil’s, was quietly vital to the success of the defense.
He held the strong side edge especially on passing downs to allow Dumervil to wreak havoc on the weak-side. He also moved well in space and was solid in pass coverage.
Fast-forward to the off-season. Josh McDaniels announced early on that Haggen would be moved inside and that Ayers would be the man strong side outside linebacker. Robert Ayers, a Tennessee grad, “Volunteered” to take the lead in the off-season OTAs and the weight room.
He also overcame a minor altercation and demotion in stride and came back stronger, more dedicated to “making Dumervil proud.” As was evident in the Invesco practice season, big things just may be in store for Mr. Ayers.
Spending most of last year on the practice squad just may have been a blessing in disguise for the Broncos and Matt Willis. Matt who? The former track stand out, had the luxury of studying the offense and working on the finer points of being an NFL wide receiver.
Matt Willis did make the active roster last year and played in one game. This off-season the third year, 6’0, 190 lb speedster out of UCLA has been nothing short of spectacular in team drills and practices, and has wowed coaches, players and spectators alike.
"He’s fast, really fast!” said Champ Bailey.
With the shake up and uncertainty about injuries and the development of Thomas and Decker, Matt Willis just might be a guy who gets a chance to shine!
Yes fans it’s spelled with an “E” not an “A”. This is a name you will be hearing a lot in the coming years from the Denver secondary. At 6’0 198 pounds and sub 4.4 speed, this Oklahoma State standout just may be the heir apparent to the great Champ Bailey.
His size, speed, and impressive cover skills had him atop many analysts Corner Prospect Board before a minor curfew infraction got him in hot water with OSU and many pro scouts.
His first round talent and his free fall to the fifth round might just make him the steal of the draft. So far Perrish Cox has been dominating Defensive Back drills and workouts and even taking first team corner and nickel reps.
As a national leader in kick and punt return yards in college, Perrish also could be called upon to shoulder some of the return load, allowing Royal to focus a bit more on receiving duties. Look for the mentoring of Dawkins and Bailey to turn this somewhat troubled youth into a mature, monster in the secondary, sooner rather than later
It’s hard not to be overlooked with guys like Zane Beadles and JD Walton, arguably two of the best interior linemen in the draft on the roster, but Eric Olsen, a 6’5 305 C/G out of Notre Dame standout was taken by the Broncos in the sixth round. This former high school lacrosse player has been described as a “feisty nasty mauler.”
Considered to be a top 5 center by cbssports.com, Eric Olsen has been somewhat overshadowed by one of the top centers in this year’s draft Walton. This has not deterred Olsen from making his mark in practice.
Showing his ability to play both guard and center, he has shown why he fits into the McDaniels philosophy of tough, smart, and nasty players. One Bronco insider (*cough Martavius*) said more than one person during OTA workouts described him as “Dawkins motor in a lineman’s body.” While he might not see playing time barring injury, count on his hard work and efforts to be a catalyst to push Beadles and Walton to keep their jobs!
There are many more that could be singled out as ones to watch. These are just a few. The great thing is that all of the ones mentioned, these will excel individually because of the commitment to the “team first” concept.
Of the players mentioned, both those that begin the season at the top of the depth chart and those that are farther down, I believe all will make their mark on this TEAM to make it better, and bringing success for years to come.