Would you be open to moving one of your three quarterbacks?
“Well, I think we never close the door on anything. But, we really like the three quarterbacks that we have. It is an extremely important position in this league and we like each and every one of those guys for what they bring to the table, both in their talent and who they are as people. We’re big believers in all of them. Traditionally, we’ve been of the believe that you keep two because it allows you to do things with your roster. But, never close the door on keeping three, either. I think they’re all talented players who like I said are good people, are good leaders and we’re big fans of all of them.”
How has the recovery program been going for RB Jerick McKinnon?
“Jerick’s recovering great. He really is. I think one of the cool things, we didn’t get a chance to see him on the field, but we’ve been able to see the work ethic that we’ve always heard about with Jerick McKinnon, front and center, in his rehab. He’s getting after it. Yeah, I think it’s been nice for him and I think he would tell you that, as would [QB] Jimmy [Garoppolo], that it’s been nice to have a partner to kind of push each other. Jimmy was a month behind, so they’ve got their own competition going. That’s good because that’s an arduous process and I think they’ve been able to help motivate each other. I think our staff is doing an incredible job of working with both of those guys. We’re really encouraged with their prospects and where they’re going to be. Not putting a timetable on any of them, but I can tell you that his progress is coming very well.”
What are the challenges and hurdles these prospects will face making the jump to the NFL?
“I would tell you, that’s not isolated to one school. That’s college kids in general. I think this is a big jump. I did it myself. You’re a young kid, you have a lot of money all of a sudden, you have a lot of freedom off the field and you’ve got to grow up in a hurry. That’s a challenge for any college kid and that’s part of what we try to do here and throughout this whole process, is ascertain who can handle that. Also, ascertain, ‘Okay, if we bring someone in, how do we provide that structure?’ Yes, it is more difficult at the professional level. I think that’s a challenge that every team faces.”
For your running game and your offensive line scheme, what are you looking at here as far as drills and all of that kind of stuff?
“Obviously, with the type of scheme that we play, we need guys that can really get out and move and open up and run. I think there’s a misnomer that we’re always looking for a smaller player. No, we’d love a 330-pound guy that can get out and go. That’s ideal. I used to have an old coach who used to say, ‘Offensive linemen fly airplanes, defensive line jump out.’ So, we’re looking for smart guys to play that position. They have to be able to process very quickly. Our offense, I think everybody knows, we do a lot. So, they have to be able to handle a lot of information and do so in a hurry. Those are the type of things we’re looking for.”
Along those lines, how do you weigh certain measurables and combine numbers between tackles and guards throughout this process?
“We have our ideal profiles for each position. We have tapes that show kind of, ‘These are the guys that we think are the ideal fits for our scheme.’ It’s very helpful for our scouts. I think our offensive staff, led by [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan], do an incredible job. Even though they’re young coaches, they’ve been in this system for a long time. So, they have a great library of what we’re looking for. I think one thing that Kyle and I kind of decided on early on is, while we have ideal profiles, we like good football players. Sometimes there’s an outlier who doesn’t have the exact measurables that you’re looking for, but the guy can flat-out play. He can make people around him better. I think you use it as guidelines and this is what we’re ideally looking for, but let’s never turn a blind eye to really good football players.”
You had S Johnathan Abram at the Senior Bowl, but he wasn’t able to participate. What do you want to see from him here?
“I can tell you with him, and I don’t get into the practice of talking about each one of these guys, but the one thing I was impressed with is he showed up. He wasn’t cleared to play in that game, but he showed up, he stayed around and he kind of became a leader of that squad when he wasn’t even playing. That really impressed with me John. He’s a very talented football player. His film speaks volumes. I think if John keeps handling himself like he has, he’s going to do just fine.”
Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown hasn’t been subtle about wanting to join you guys. Have you had any talks with the Steelers about him?
“We have not. It’s funny, the world we live in, where one tweet from a player to another turns into interest and all of that. But hey, that is the world we live in. I can tell you, like every team in this league, we think the guy is a heck of a football player. But, we have not had talks with the Steelers. I can tell you that.”
How important was it to bring back DL Arik Armstead?
“Arik was really important. We’re going to exercise that fifth-year option with him. I think Arik really came into his own. There’s always a process when you come in as a new staff with a new scheme, finding out exactly how and where people best fit. It’s been kind of an evolution for Arik. We started him initially at that outside LEO spot, always knowing that he could move inside and rush. We played him at some big end who plays over the tight end more. At the end of last year, he was playing the nose tackle, which we never thought he’d be. But, you have to be around a player and they have to be around you for you to find where that best fit is. What we found, he’s a very disruptive player. He’s a really good football player. We think very highly of him, so that was an easy decision for us to make. We’re really excited to work with him.”
“We’re always open. Are you interested?”
What kind of player would you like to fit the LEO position?
“The LEO position is really the open-side player. That profile has changed a little with [defensive line coach] Kris Kocurek coming to us, that profile. Basically, that’s a guy that can win one-on-one rushes at a high rate. You have to have a guy who can close out games, close out halves. When you have them, they can be a difference maker. I think we’re also looking for powerful players. The great thing about Kris Kocurek and what he’s going to do and what we’ve wanted to do and why we were interested in him, he cuts these guys loose. They’re going to be playing with a quick trigger and getting after it. But, those are guys that can get to the quarterback and finish him.”
Why haven’t you reached out to the Steelers?
“I’ll just leave it at he’s a great player. We’ve got a ton of respect for Antonio.”
What is it about K Robbie Gould?
“He makes a lot of kicks. He’s solid as a rock and that’s why we’ve been working on that. I don’t want to negotiate in the public, I don’t ever like doing that, but I can tell you that we are huge fans of Robbie Gould. He’s been as consistent as they come. I’ve known Robbie for a long time and I knew that about him. We’re very hopeful. We did put the franchise tag on him, but we’re very hopeful that we continue talking and try to come to an agreement to keep him around for a while. We had hoped to get a deal done and I think Robbie did as well. We weren’t able to do that so at that point, that decision became very easy for us.”
How do you weigh drafting a pass rusher versus going after one in free agency?
“I would tell you that it’s a great year to be looking for D-Linemen in general. I hear people talking, I’ve been doing this for a couple of years, but they’re talking eight years, this is as strong of a class as the last eight years at the defensive line. I concur. It’s not just exclusively at one position. There’s inside guys, there’s outside guys and you’re right, there’s some on the free agent. As I’ve learned, typically those guys get what Robbie Gould got and they never reach the market, they get franchised, the good ones. So, there’s a lot of options out there and how you weigh that, I think you spend a lot of time and if there’s someone, obviously the one thing about free agency is that you’ve seen them at our level. So, if you feel confident and you have room and you don’t see exactly what you’re looking for or you have other needs in the draft, that’s the thing you weigh back and forth. That’s a constant conversation that’s ongoing. Every team has them and we’ve certainly been having those as well.”
How has the safety position evolved since you played?
“I think there’s a lot of differences than when I played safety. The style of offenses that they’re playing against, some people call it basketball on the grass. They’re playing in space a lot. I think that leads to the guys that are very versatile, safeties that can play corner and cover people. I don’t envy those guys in college football. It is bombs away and those guys are running fast and the plays are happening fast. So, you better be able to do a lot of things and you better be able to do it in a hurry and you can’t hit anyone anymore. So, you put all of that together and that’s why everyone is looking for that special guy who has the total package.”
What are the Broncos getting in Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello?
“I was just really impressed, for two specific examples of the works that Scangs did. I think first of all, when Jimmy Garoppolo came in mid-season, in the middle of a season, and Rich is coaching his quarterbacks but also has the task of getting a guy who we obviously put a lot into to bring into the building and charging him with getting him ready to play. So, I think the diligence and the skill with which he got Jimmy ready to play, that really is when I took notice of, ‘Wow, this guy did a really good job.’ Now, he didn’t give Jimmy all of that talent, but he did and that’s hard to do because Rich was very much a part of our game planning. So, he had all of his other duties, but found a way to get Jimmy ready in short order. That impressed the heck out of me. I think the work he’s done with [QB] C.J. Beathard and then [QB] Nick Mullens specifically this year, those guys are both great workers but Scangs was with them and pushing them all the time. I think that spoke volumes to me. Like I said, Kyle gives those guys a lot, puts a lot on their plate in terms of the game plan and bringing ideas. I think Rich was excellent at that. I think he’ll do a real nice job for the Broncos. We’re sorry to see him go because we don’t like good coaches going, but it’s a great opportunity for him and I’m happy for him and the Broncos.”
What lessons did you learn from the pre-draft process and how have you applied that?
“We’re always learning from every experience with each player that we draft. You evaluate every player that you bring in and you say, ‘Okay, what went well and what might we have missed?’ I think that will never change. You’re always getting better. I think if I’m doing this 15 years from now, I’ll be telling you the same thing. So, I think every situation, you look at and you say, ‘How can we improve? We constantly are evaluating everything we do and obviously bringing these guys in and them being successful both on and off the field is critical. So, you always learn from that.”
What was the process of drafting TE George Kittle two years ago?
“I would say, he and we were probably the benefactor from us putting a lot of time in on C.J. Beathard early and then finding out who’s this number 46? They don’t throw it much, but this guy can run and he can block and football is really important to him. He’s got some funky movements to him that maybe at first you don’t see a crazy athlete, but the more you watch him, he’s always pulling away from people. And there’s a toughness to his play. There’s a will that speaks through the film. Then you bring him in and you still don’t know what you’re getting. But, then he starts doing it at our level against good players. I think the thing from the jump with George is guys that are really fast, he’d catch the ball and he was pulling away from them. People say well that’s just practice, they’re easing up, and then he’d do it in a preseason game. Then he’d do it in a regular season game. But I think George, I think the thing he impressed us most with from year one to year two, he struggled to stay healthy a little bit year one and he took to heart being a professional in every aspect and the routine he’d have to go through. He was diligent and tireless. Probably had a better offseason than any rookie I’ve ever seen. He came back, and you could tell, there’s certain players you can tell when they come back from what we call those 30 days away, not 30 days off. George is an example that Kyle will use and we will always use, the jump he made from year one to year two because of the work he put in. Obviously, there’s a lot of talent, but the work showed this year. He had one of the great seasons a tight end has ever had.”
Is it something that Iowa does to develop tight ends?
“They do. They develop a lot of good football players. I think the thing that we like and a lot of NFL teams like is that they do a lot of things that they’re going to be asked to do at the next level. George Kittle for instance, he caught balls but he also was an in-line blocker and they were running from traditional formations. So, you could see a lot of things. A lot of times you’re trying to project. With Iowa, you see the guys do, and [Iowa head coach] Kirk [Ferentz] has an NFL background, so they put them in a lot of situations that we see our guys in. They demand a lot out of their players. I think they have the type of guys that their profile, their vision statement for what an Iowa football player is all about. We’ve found, and you’re right, particularly at that position, they’re doing something right.”