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Al Wilson: Rolling With The Changes

 

May 23, 2005 12:21 pm US/Mountain

by J. Michael Moore, DenverBroncos.com

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4/DenverBroncos.com) - Broncos safety John Lynch was wrapping up an interview with local media Thursday when middle linebacker Al Wilson entered the room.

 

Lynch had just entered into a compliment-laced response on Wilson when the two-time Pro Bowler crept up on the podium behind him.

 

"I didn't know a lot about Al Wilson when I cam here but one thing I recognized right away is he's a guy that loves to play the game of football," Lynch said. "I kind of feed off his energy, I think he feeds of my energy and I think we're both driven by the same thing as football players and that's to be the best. I really enjoy playing with him."

 

Members of the media asked if Lynch made his comments because Wilson was in the room.

 

"Is he behind me?" Lynch asked.

 

The room erupted in laughter as the co-captains of the Broncos defense exchanged nods and Wilson took his place in front of reporters.

 

Compliments are nothing new for Wilson. He's been a starting linebacker for six seasons. Only defensive lineman Trevor Pryce can boast that long of a tenure in Denver, and he missed all but two games last season with a back injury.

 

Since Wilson was drafted out of Tennessee in 1999, the Broncos' defense has used more than 30 different starters. The team added Lynch and Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey prior to last season and four defensive linemen from the Cleveland Browns this season. Linebackers Ian Gold and Keith Burns also re-signed with the team after stints with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

 

With the adjustments 2005 may prove to be one of the best years for the defense in terms of talent and depth, but the Broncos have always had consistency with Wilson.

 

The West Tennessee native had 109 tackles, 2.5 sacks and an interception returned for a touchdown last season. Denver fans also won't forget the hit he put on Raiders running back Tyrone Wheatley last Nov. 28, stopping a fourth-and-one attempt.

 

He has recorded more than 100 tackles in five of his six seasons, been around the proverbial NFL block and likes what he sees out of the revamped Broncos defense, particularly the defensive line and linebacker units.

 

Bringing Gold -- a starter for the Broncos in 2002 and 2003 -- back excites Wilson, who said the current linebacker unit, though different from years past, has a shot to be one of the best in the league.

 

But the overhauled defensive line also excites Wilson.

 

"When I look at those guys I get excited simply because we have four guys that can play up front and then we've got another four guys that can start anywhere in the league," Wilson said. "The depth that we have at the D-line position now is unbelievable.

 

"If we can get those guys healthy and keep them healthy throughout the season then we're going to destroy a lot of offenses just up front. It's going to allow (the linebackers) to do a lot of different things on the back end that we haven't had a chance to do in previous years."

 

There are some questions left when it comes to the linebacker slots. Gold played on the right side in his first run with the Broncos. D.J. Williams, the Broncos first-round pick in 2004, assumed that spot in 2004. Wilson -- the group's unquestioned leader -- said Williams has size to play on the left side and take on opposing tight ends.

 

Either way, having an over abundance of experienced bodies at the position isn't a bad problem to have, especially with a veteran like Wilson making the calls in the huddle.

 

"Anytime I look to the side it seems like sometimes it's D.J., sometimes its Ian," Wilson said. "I don't know if we're going to switch it up. I don't know how we're going to do it. As long as I have them both on the field with me, it doesn't matter."

 

 

************************************************************************

This is a local story but from a friend that watched one of their practices in mini camps he noted that while the DL was looking like they were just getting used to eachother he said that with a DL slight struggle expected in the first few weeks picking up the starting LBs and then trading them "high" would be a very smart plan coming into this season.

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And here is some DLine Q&A from the DLine Coach

 

Friday, June 10, 2005

 

Defensive Front Coach Andre Patterson Talks About the 2005 Season

Andre Patterson joined the Broncos on February 11 and will work in his first season as the club's defensive front coach. Entering his ninth season as an NFL assistant, Patterson has also coached in Cleveland, Dallas, Minnesota and New England. In his most recent assignment he spent the past two seasons with the Browns.

 

His arrival in Denver coincides with that of four former Cleveland players -- Courtney Brown, Michael Myers, Ebenezer Ekuban and Gerard Warren.

 

While Patterson is familiar with those four he is getting to know and work with the other current defensive linemen on the Broncos roster -- Chukie Nwokorie, Raylee Johnson, Marco Coleman, Trevor Pryce, Anton Palepoi, Demetrin Veal, Luther Elliss, Monsanto Pope, Dorsett Davis and Mario Fatafehi, all of whom are participating in the team's offseason workouts and camps. He'll also have a chance to work with D.J. Renteria who is coming off an injury suffered while in NFL Europe and Aaron Hunt who earned All-NFL Europe honors this season across the pond with the Hamburg Sea Devils.

 

During the second half of team camp this past week Patterson took time to answer your questions. Here's what he had to say:

 

Brandon; Long Beach, Calif.

How are you going to try and get those Cleveland guys to finally play up to their potential?

 

Andre Patterson

Well, to me that's kind of a loaded question because everybody is lumping all four of those guys into one category when in reality they all have different circumstances. To me, Courtney Brown, Ebenezer Ekuban and Michael Myers are not a reflection of not playing up to their potential. When Ebenezer and Courtney are on the field they both play very well. They have had to deal with injuries throughout the course of their careers. Michael Myers has played good football with all three teams that he's been with. Gerard Warren is the one that has to play to the potential that came with where he was drafted. Jacob Burney and I are trying to get him to be more consistent every day in practice in every little thing that he does and hopefully this environment and being around other great players like Trevor Pryce, Ian Gold and Al Wilson will help him meet his talent level. That's what we're hoping.

 

Sterling Bird; Orange, Calif.

Could Courtney Brown be a dominate force and does he have the skills to be one of the best in the NFL?

 

Andre Patterson

I definitely believe Courtney Brown is a dominant force. I think anyone that's watched Courtney play when he's on the field will walk away saying that when he's in the game his presence is felt in the running game as well as in pass-rushing situations. We have to try to find a way to keep Courtney on the field for 16 games, and if he's there for 16 games I think all Broncos fans will walk away saying that Courtney Brown is a dominant force.

 

Dave Hedges; Georgetown, Colo.

A foot injury can be the end of an athlete's career. Does Courtney Brown have a chance of coming back this season?

 

Andre Patterson

I believe he does and I know that he believes he does. The medical staff here with the Broncos has done a tremendous job rehabbing his injury and getting him prepared to be on the field when training camp starts. He's doing more and more every week and I feel confident that he'll be back at full strength.

 

Rob Dreher; Hutchinson, Kan.

You were quoted as saying Gerald Warren was held back because of the scheme in Cleveland. Why do you think he will succeed in Larry Coyer's system?

 

Andre Patterson

I know that there is more freedom for our three technique in certain calls that we have built into the package here in Denver that we didn't have in Cleveland; that's number one. Number two is the three guys that are going to be standing behind him. We have three linebackers behind him that have tremendous speed and athletic ability. All three of them are playmakers and because offenses have to find a way to get to those linebackers it ought to open up more opportunities for Gerard to make plays.

 

Kary Stringham; Colorado Springs, Colo.

A lot has been said about the work ethic of Gerard Warren. What did you see in him in Cleveland that would make you think that a change in scenery is all he needs?

 

Andre Patterson

Obviously I have an advantage over everybody else because I've worked with him for two years. And in the two years that I've worked with Gerard, he worked hard for me. During my individual periods and during practice I set a standard that he had to achieve and if he didn't achieve that standard on those days then he didn't play, plain and simple. So he tried to rise to those challenges. As a young player things that you do in your first year and your second year seem to live with you forever. I inherited Gerard after he was under different coaches for two years. I thought the last five games of last season we started to see him play on a more consistent basis and I think that's showing here in the quarterback school and the team camp we've had here. We're seeing him play on a more consistent basis. People also have to remember that he came out of college as a junior. He was an early-out and in college where he was already immature and then got paid a bunch of money. What tells you to grow up? You need a shock in your life to tell you to grow up and I think the way things ended in Cleveland was a shock for him and he said, 'Hey, it's time for me to grow up.' And that's what he's done so far here in Denver.

 

Patrick Turley; Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Do you think playing a one-gap system will increase Warren's production?

 

Andre Patterson

Oh, yeah; no question about that. That goes back to an earlier question. The majority of our calls in Cleveland were two-gap where as here by formation, by backfield sets and by call, it gives him the ability to be a one-gap player and utilize his power, strength and quickness to make plays.

 

Ibrahim; Alexandria, Va.

How is Trevor Pryce doing? Is he recovered from his back injury?

 

Andre Patterson

He's doing very well. He's working hard, he looks quick and explosive and he can change direction very well. I would say that he looks fully recovered.

 

Michael Stewart; Chandler, Ariz.

With Trevor Pryce coming of a season were he did not play because of his back do you think he is still the Pro Bowl player he used to be?

 

Andre Patterson

From everything that I've seen, he's still a Pro Bowl player. He has tremendous talent and ability for a big man. He can run very well. I haven't seen any signs that this guy has slowed down at all. I think he feels refreshed about where we're going to play him and I think he feels really good about the talent that's next to him. I think he feels like he has some help.

 

Andreas; Denver, Ala.

Is Trevor going to play defensive tackle or end?

 

Andre Patterson

He's a defensive end.

 

George Bombardier; Bronx, N.Y.

I am a little confused to why the team has so many defensive linemen. I see about 11 players battling for four spots. Some of the linemen are young and some are older veterans. How are you going to make all these players happy with their playing time?

 

Andre Patterson

Right now we're getting ready to go to training camp so we need extra bodies in order to get through camp and the preseason games. What that has allowed us to have is tremendous competition for guys battling for those nine or 10 slots on this football team. That gives us great competition through practice; that gives us great competition through preseason games as these guys are trying to fight to make the team. I don't see that as a negative. Once you get to the season and you have your nine or 10 guys that have made the team, that gives you a great rotation to have on game day where you can roll guys in and out and there is no falloff between your first unit and second unit.

 

Hank; Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada

I'm anxious to see Dorsett Davis contribute this year. What kind of play can we expect from him? Is he more of a nose tackle or a penetrating defensive tackle? Also, did he bulk up in his year off or is he still around 305 pounds?

 

Andre Patterson

Dorsett is working hard. He's in the mix and competing to earn a roster spot. He's more of a three-technique than a nose tackle. Dorsett is a tall, long player and it's hard for those types of guys to sit down in there as a nose tackle and hold off two people when you're that tall. His game is more being able to penetrate and go forward and he's trying to master the techniques that we teach him.

 

Dean; Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Aaron Hunt finished his NFL Europe season off quite well playing at defensive tackle. Which position will he play at in training camp?

 

Andre Patterson

He's playing defensive end in training camp. Obviously we're going to take a look at him in third-down situations and see what he can do as an outside pass rusher and see if we can take advantage of some of the things that he learned over in NFL Europe playing inside.

 

Randy; Calif.

Could you describe how your defensive line responsibilities differ from Jacob Burney's? How does your focus differ from his?

 

Andre Patterson

I think it's a great combination between Jacob and me as far as dealing with the whole group of defensive linemen. My focus and responsibility are the defensive tackles and Jacob's is the defensive ends. What that's done is help us be able to coach them better. Instead of one guy trying to coach all four guys and forcing the coach to manage his time between the tackles and the ends, now we're able to split and teach the players to be technicians. We're trying to really focus on teaching them how to do their job correctly every single time. That's the advantage of having Jacob and I together. Now we're using our combined expertise and I think that's an advantage for our players.

 

Dean Genova; Tustin, Calif.

Will we pursue the quarterback more this season with the high-quality front-line players or use more blitzes to get to the quarterback?

 

Andre Patterson

I think we'll do a little bit of both. Hopefully we'll be able to get great pressure on the quarterback with our front four, which will in turn help us get more interceptions and force them to turn the ball over. I know Larry likes to bring the heat so I don't see that changing at all, so I think we'll do a little bit of both.

 

Antonio Mosby; Columbus, Ohio

What are we going to do with our defense -- run the 4-3 or the 3-4?

 

Andre Patterson

I think anybody can see that with all of the defensive linemen that we have that we are going to stay in the 4-3 defense for the majority and use those guys' abilities and talents to the best of our ability to give our team a chance to be successful.

 

C. Buddy Craig; Charles Town, W.V.

This is the most talented team I've seen. Character is the only thing that will keep Denver from winning the Super Bowl each of the next three years. Do the coaches explain that integrity and character are absolutes to go all the way?

 

Andre Patterson

Character and integrity are very important. They're very important starting with Mr. Bowlen to Coach Shanahan and all the way down to all of the assistant coaches, which then carries on down to the players on this team. It goes back to people trying to put everybody in one basket. Courtney Brown, Ebenezer Ekuban and Michael Myers are three of the best human beings I've ever been around, period. I'm not talking about football players; I'm talking about human beings, men that you would love to see your daughter come home and say this is the man she's going to marry. That's what kind of people they are. I know that they have added great chemistry to our football team. I said it when they first came here: the Denver community is going to find out that having these guys added to this community would be a tremendous thing. I don’t think those guys brought any character or integrity issues whatsoever. With Gerard Warren, he hasn't been a troublemaker, his issue has been maturity and everybody has been honest and straightforward about that and he knows that's been his issue. He's working real hard to try and fix that. He's not a bad person; being immature and being a bad person are two different things.

 

Marvin Howard; Denver, Colo.

Will a stronger linebacker corps make it easier for the front line to pin their ears back and go after the quarterback?

 

Andre Patterson

No question about it. When you have those three fast linebackers behind the line, it gives them a chance to make more plays. I think that's the thing that excites me the most; the front seven has a chance to be a very, very good group.

 

Josh Mason; Grand Forks, N.D.

Do you feel even more comfortable coaching in Denver since a lot of the defensive linemen from Cleveland are now playing for the Broncos?

 

Andre Patterson

It made the transition a little bit easier for me only in that there were some things that I teach that are a little bit different than these guys here had been exposed to. In that sense it's been easy for me to grab one of the guys from Cleveland and have them demonstrate for the other guys what we are trying to accomplish. I'm able to use them as examples and coach off of their example, so that has helped make the transition a lot easier for me as far as the coaching part of it goes.

 

Brad Bixler; Lake Havasu City, Ariz.

How do the facilities, administration and organization compare between Denver and the other places you have coached?

 

Andre Patterson

Denver is a first-class organization. It treats the players great. It's a great facility here. Everybody from top to bottom is trying to do everything they can to bring a championship to Denver and it's a refreshing feeling for me to be with an organization that not only expects to be a champion but demands that everybody do everything they can as champions would do. That's how an organization is supposed to be run and that's been the most impressive thing I've seen here with the Denver Broncos.

 

Kenny Walls; San Francisco, Calif.

Last year the Broncos were at the bottom of the NFL in takeaways. How can we improve on putting more pressure on the quarterback to cause more turnovers for the defense?

 

Andre Patterson

I think one of the best way s to get more turnovers is by pressuring the quarterback. I think sometimes people put pressure and sacks in the same bag. I've had plenty of games in my career where we've sacked the quarterback six times and lost. A quarterback can go 30 of 36, you sack him six times and he still throws for 300 yards, four touchdowns and beats you. I've also been in games where the quarterback has gone 17 of 36 for 150 yards, with one sack and three interceptions and we win the game because we got great pressure on the quarterback. We made him get the ball out early. We made him throw it before he wanted to and he threw it too high or too low. That's how you win football games, and that's what's important for us to realize as a defense and as a defensive line. Players all want to get sacks because that's what gets the glory, but the bottom line is pressure is what helps you win games. Making that quarterback step up, step right, step left, get the ball out early to give our secondary a chance to make plays is what we need to do. That's what we're going to try to improve on -- make the quarterback feel pressure at all times.

 

Mike Quilico; Kansas City, Mo.

Are you going to have your down linemen stay low and use the rip, swim, or bull rush on the offensive line to get into the backfield to put pressure on the quarterback or have the linemen stand the lineman up and have more lateral movement, protect the run, fill the gaps and let the defensive backs do their jobs?

 

Andre Patterson

We're always trying to stay low. Our number one job in the running game is to make sure we take care of our gap responsibilities and try to do the best job we can to keep the linebackers free. Let them flow and make the tackles. Once that's happened, now they have to find a way to get to those linebackers, so if they're escaping quickly it gives us as defensive linemen a chance to make plays. It all kind of works hand-in-hand to help each other out, but it all starts with us coming off the football and getting our pads low and keeping our hands up.

 

Alex Hamlin; South Lyon, Mich.

Do you think it is more important to have outstanding defensive linemen or to have depth at the position?

 

Andre Patterson

I guess the best way for me to answer that is that I'd rather have eight good linemen than three unbelievable linemen and five guys that can't play. If you have eight good linemen you have a chance to be successful. You can keep up the pressure and the guys don't have to play more plays than they need to and they can always run and chase the football. I think that's the most important thing.

 

Idorenyin Ikpim; New York, N.Y.

I feel that Anton Palepoi has a lot of talent and upside. I was wondering where you think he will fit in the rotation and what things he might need to improve on.

 

Andre Patterson

Anton is working hard to improve himself as a run player. He has tremendous speed and quickness that can help us as a pass rusher. Jacob is working real hard to get him to be a complete football player, one that can go in there and hold up against the run, make plays in the run as well as be a good pass rusher. He's working real hard to try and improve himself. He's gotten bigger in the offseason and stronger and I think that's going to help him improve as a player.

 

Justin Moy; Westminster, Colo.

The Denver Broncos have some young talent on the defensive line in Pat Chukwurah and Mario Fatafehi. What do you see they need to work on to get to the next level?

 

Andre Patterson

Patrick is playing linebacker and then he comes down and helps us out some on third-down pass-rush situations so he's still working on doing that, but his number one focus is on being a linebacker. Mario had a tremendous year for the team last year. He started 16 games and played very well. All we're trying to do is have his game grow as a professional. He had a lot of experience last year starting 16 games and we're trying to get him to take that next step and take it to another level. I'm real happy with the progress that Mario has made so far.

 

Brett Woodland; Hawthorne, Calif.

What are some of the techniques you use to motivate a player that seems not to be playing up to his full potential?

 

Andre Patterson

I think the first thing with me is honesty. I'm going to tell you if you're not playing well, but I'm also going to tell you if you are playing well. I'm more of the type that if you do something right, that's when I'm going to go crazy and want the whole world to know and when you do something wrong, that's when it is personal between me and the player. That's when my old teacher's hat comes back on. I always think of it like this -- when I was a teacher and I was teaching basic science, if a kid couldn't get the difference between a proton and a neutron I wouldn't yell at him, swear at him or call him all kinds of names. I'd roll up my sleeves, sit down next to him and teach him how to understand it. The same thing applies to a football player. If a player is messing things up, it's time for me to teach him how to do it correctly. But when a player is doing something right, I want the whole world to know. I'm not the type that goes ballistic out there when a guy makes a mistake. I'll run to the huddle and it's a personal conversation between me and that player. But if a guy makes a spectacular play, that's when you'll see me run out there and be loud and let the whole world know. I think it comes back to me starting out as a teacher before being a coach.

 

Jason Quigley; Aztec, N.M.

How do you plan to best utilize Luther Elliss this season and take full advantage of his superior athleticism, work ethic and excellent leadership qualities?

 

Andre Patterson

Luther is doing that already. He's a great leader in our meeting room and on the practice field. He's moving around very well out there and we're going to find ways to put Luther in position for him to be successful and to take advantage of all the old veteran tricks that he's learned over the years.

 

Kurt McKibben; Durham, N.C.

How do you attack an offensive line when they are primarily using the chop block tactics?

 

Andre Patterson

You run, run, run and get your feet and legs out of the way. That's the number one thing. You have to keep your feet close to the guy that you're lined up in front of so that the guy inside or outside of you doesn't have the ability to cut because he might cut his own guy. If a player is lazy with his legs then he'll get cut. He's got to be able to run and hug up to the guy that he's lined up on so the next guy doesn't have space to lay out and cut him.

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