AFC West: Niko Koutouvides
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
The purge has begun in Denver.
The word around the organization was that the bloodletting would be severe in Denver and it began with a bang Monday. The team cut six players and saved more than $25 million in salary cap space in the process. The Broncos, who cut several lower level, low pay players last week, now have more than $28 million in cap space with the number fluctuating nearly on a daily basis.
These moves mean Denver will have plenty of room to pick up some key free agents once free agency begins Feb. 27. Denver will need to add several defensive players. Four of the players cut were starters at least part of the season in 2008.
The cuts illustrate the rough free agency period Denver had in 2008. The team drafted very well last season but made several mistakes in free agency. Koutouvides and Manuel were brought in through free agency and Engelberger and Jackson were both re-signed by Denver last year. Robertson was brought in through a draft day eve trade with the Jets. Denver won't owe New York any compensation for Robertson. His release alone gives Denver more than $16 million in cap relief.
Several of these players played significant time but they were not effective and it was clear Denver was going to have to replace them. The Broncos will likely need five or six new starters and these cuts were the beginning of the change in Denver on the defensive side of the ball.
The team may also soon cut cornerback Dre' Bly. His release would clear several million alone.
Expect Denver, which has cash issues like many teams around the league during this economic downturn, to try to get at least a couple of defensive starters (there are needs on all three phases of the unit). The Broncos could be intrigued by a big name free agent, but Monday's purge shows the Broncos needs for quantity as much as quality this offseason.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
SAN DIEGO -- Here are the inactive players for tonight's showdown in the AFC West in the winner-takes-the-division game between the Broncos and the Chargers:
Denver Broncos Inactives
San Diego Chargers Inactives
Weekend mail call:
Joey from Richmond, ca: Hey bill you are doing a great job covering the AFC west. I am just woundering if the Raiders go out and release Javon Walker and release Michael Huff. They just completley sratr over like the chiefs this year and the falcons were going to do but they ended up wining. Their is only seven draft picks and their is only so much money we can spend this off season.How do you see this team doing next year. Oh yea and next year we have to play the NFC east next year.
BW: Thanks, Joey. I could potentially see both players cut. It would cost some money but the Raiders may be fed up enough to let both Walker and Huff go. Neither player has done much to merit staying another year in Oakland.
Serr Her: Hey Bill, The broncos have I think 10 draft picks, don't you see them trading up and getting one of USC's MAGNFICENT defensive players like MLB Rey Maualuga or Safety Taylor Mays? Also what are the chances Shanahan goes to a 3-4 defense and have woodyard and Dj Williams play at the same time? you can make Woodyard the future Merriman and have Williams lead you in tackles like he does every year, and this way you just need to find a defensive line, by the way is there anyone notable in the defensive line that is coming up in the draft? sorry bout all the questions, just kinda curious!
BW: As far the 3-4 defense goes, the Broncos were not very good at it this season. Perhaps with an entire offseason to plan, it would be better. I think the more likely scenario is that Woodyard is moved to the strongside for 2009. As far as the USC kids, Denver could move up. It has before. So anything is possible.
Brad from Suffolk, VA: First off I just want to say good job on the AFC West. Wish I could say the same about the teams. My question is about McFaddens role in the Oakland offense next year. He has shown in a few games this year that he can break away for a long gain running the ball. Also that he has the hands of a Tight End, when the ball is catchable. Do you think they will put him in as the primary back over Fargas or use him in more of a screen situation and put him out in the flats against LB's to use his speed and hands?
BW: Thanks, Brad. The Oakland coaching staff needs to spend a fair amount of the offseason trying to figure a way to use McFadden. He is a terrific weapon potentially. But he hasn't made an impact. The coaching staff has to get him more involved. In Oakland's last game, at San Diego, McFadden had just three touches. That is ridiculous.
Jeff from Lafayette, LA: What ever happened to Niko Koutouvides? I thought the Broncos brought him in to be their next middle linebacker. I don't even see him on special teams. With all the injuries the Broncos have at lineback, it seems like Koutouvides would at least be in their rotation.
BW: Koutouvides is now a third string outside linebacker. He was moved from the middle. He was signed as a free agent from Seattle to be the middle linebacker but he could not win the job. He is doing a good job on special teams but he was paid to be a starter.
Mike from Iowa: Who will be the Chiefs first draft pick in 09, passer or pass rusher?
BW: It has to be a pass rusher. This team is on pace to break the record for the fewest sacks in a season. Tyler Thigpen is serviceable. But the Chiefs need a pass rusher.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
The following is a sampling of Denver coach Mike Shanahan's press briefing today, courtesy of the Broncos' PR department. Highlights include a healthy update on star cornerback Champ Bailey and the announcement that backup Niko Koutouvides has been moved from middle to weakside linebacker,
On CB Champ Bailey's injury
"I really won't know about Champ until Wednesday. He has been jogging and he worked out a little bit last Thursday and jogged some more over the weekend. At practice on Wednesday, we will see how he looks. Other than that, I will address all other injuries we have on Wednesday."
On if he is counting on Bailey to tell him how he feels
"For sure. He has to go out there and feel good. It was a third-degree injury, so it was actually separated. He is jogging now but until he actually does football related drills, we won't know for sure. We will get a chance to evaluate that on Wednesday. He will continue to get treatment and hopefully he continues to improve."
On making practice more physical
"We have had contact every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday for obvious reasons. Our rush defense was going downhill and we felt like we had to tighten things up a bit. We improved in that area over the past few games and we want to keep on doing it. We are trying to get better at what we have been doing. Obviously with the injuries, we can't experiment with the four-man front. Sometimes we change things up a little. We tackled better yesterday and that is one of the reasons we put on the pads, to get better at tackling."
On getting Denver's youthful roster ready to play
"Any time you have walk-throughs and practice with young players, it is their first go-round so we want them to get as many reps as they can. Especially going against a team like Atlanta, who does a lot of different things offensively and in the running game, you have to be on top of your game. I think our coaches did a great job of getting our guys ready. The guys responded and played very well. I think they only had one missed tackle, and that is pretty good against a team like that."
On having no turnovers against Atlanta
"One of the reasons I thought we would go to pads was so we could practice getting at wide receivers and running backs, stripping the ball and creating more contact so we can learn to hold onto the football better. We put them in situations in practice that they are going to see in the games. Hopefully we can keep it going. We didn't have a turnover in this game, which is a big positive. Maybe it came by practice or maybe we were lucky. Whatever it was it worked out."
On whether former S John Lynch's neck was a concern before he signed with Denver in 2004
"The doctor said his neck was fine, so I didn't concern myself with it. The doctor told us if we were going to consider John Lynch, don't let his neck affect your decision, so we didn't. He had four excellent years and four Pro-Bowls. He is what you look for in a player on and off the football field. I have never been around a guy that was more of a pro than John. He did everything you wanted him to do on the field, he did everything you wanted him to do off the field, he was like a coach around the locker room and you don't come around (players like him) very often. That's why I think he will be in the Hall of Fame. "
On the risk of having WR Eddie Royal return kicks
"You always have to weigh that. It's always a question mark. Obviously Eddie is very valuable to us at wide receiver and as a punt returner. Do you take a chance with him as a kick returner? But when you lose guys like (RB) Selvin Young and (RB) Andre Hall and you want to win football games then you are going to play your best players. You keep your fingers crossed that they stay healthy and you do what you have to do to win. Sometimes you do take more chances that you normally would, but when you lose five running backs it doesn't really give you much of a choice."
On Royal's returning instincts
"That's one of the reasons why we drafted him. We felt like once he got the ball in his hands as a punt returner or a kickoff returner he had a chance to go the distance every time. (In college) I thought he was under the radar. He did an unbelievable job getting away from bump coverage. In the National Football League, if you can't get away from bump coverage usually you are coaching very quickly. With his speed, quickness and agility, he has been able to do that from the first day. What we didn't know was how sharp he was. The game is not too big for him. He has handled himself unbelievably for a rookie relative to his intelligence, the way he goes about his preparation and the way he handles himself on the field. We just hope he keeps on getting better and better."
On RB Tatum Bell's performance against the Falcons
"I think he did a great job. Coming in with just a few days (of) preparation and not being in a football uniform for a number of weeks, to come in and play like he did I think was really a compliment to him.
"(Running Backs Coach) Bobby (Turner) has a lot of confidence in him, and Bobby kinds of switches those guys in and out as he sees fit. He has a great feel and he has a lot of confidence in Tatum."
On whether Spencer Larsen has a future at fullback or linebacker
"We talked about when we first drafted him. I called him up before we drafted him and said 'Hey, would you be willing to play fullback?' He said 'Coach, I just want to make a football team. I haven't played fullback since high school, but if that's where you want me to play I'll play it.' I said 'We're going to take a look at you both at the fullback position and at the linebacker position.' So we started him out the first week at the fullback position and the second week at the OTAs at the linebacker position se he could learn all the terminology. In a 45-man squad, you're not really sure if somebody goes down or if you have a number of injuries you can use a guy (like Larsen). It' worked out because we've had a few guys go down and he has stepped u[p and played well.
"One thing he is doing is making plays on special teams. When you make that many plays on special teams you are going to be a football player whether you are on defense or offense or both. He is just such a quality guy. You talk about a guy you want to go to war with. He doesn't know anything but 100 percent. He has top character and
he is going to be a top player for a long time."
On what he saw in rookie CB Josh Bell that made him ascend up the depth chart so quickly
"Practice. Guys stand out at practice and he's been consistent. The first day he came in, he had a little swagger to him. He is very natural coming out of a break; he has great hips; the game is not too big for him. He has a lot of confidence going out there. Hopefully he has a good future as well."
On LB Niko Koutouvides
Niko, we moved him over to the 'Will' linebacker position because I think Niko is still a good linebacker. We have some guys that are playing very special. Niko is a football player in the National Football League. We went back and forth with Tampa (Bay) trying to get him. They had him projected as their starter at 'Sam' linebacker."
On how S John Lynch compares to former Broncos Dennis Smith and Steve Atwater
"To be honest with you, Dennis Smith is the hardest hitter I have ever been around on any team. Bar none. I think we know what type of player Steve Atwater was. He was very similar to Dennis Smith. John Lynch, we got at the tail end of his career after he was basically let go from Tampa Bay. He came in here and made four Pro Bowls. He has a Super Bowl ring and a bunch of Pro Bowls. I think Dennis Smith and Steve Atwater should still be in consideration for the Hall of Fame.
"You just never know about the Hall of Fame. For us to only have two guys in there with as many Super Bowls that we've been to, I can't understand that. You can go back to a lot of Broncos but every time you talk about it everybody thinks you're complaining. It's not right when you take a look at the numbers and the number of guys we got it. How do you explain that? I want everybody that I've been with to get in."
On the Broncos' defensive penalties that led to Atlanta first downs
"That just shows you what kind of game we were capable of playing. We gave them a fourth-and-1 and there is no excuse for it. You have to keep your concentration level. I think everybody in the stadium knew they weren't going to run the football except us. We jumped offsides and that was seven points. To win on the road and make some of the mistakes that we made just shows a lot about our guys. Normally if you make one of those mistakes you don't win. We made two or three of those mistakes and we were still able to pull it out."
Posted by ESPN.com' s Bill Williamson
Here are some thoughts after Denver's 23-13 win over visiting Dallas on Saturday night:
- Running back Andre Hall looks like he will be Denver's short-yardage back. Even though he is small, Hall runs tough and he ate up some tough yardage against the Cowboys. Hall has been more impressive than veteran pickup Michael Pittman who was signed to be the short-yardage back.
- Second-year player Ryan Harris settled down and played much better against Dallas than he did against Houston in his first pro start. Harris was penalized four times against the Texans.
- Niko Koutouvides did a decent job at middle linebacker and he may be leading veteran Nate Webster in the chase to be the starter. Also, D.J. Williams looks much better at weakside linebacker than he did in the middle of last season.
- It's time for the Broncos to start using tight end Tony Scheffler more. He can be a top weapon and he has a good connection with quarterback Jay Cutler.
- It will be interesting to see if Eddie Royal is the Denver returner now that he looks like a lock to be the No. 2 receiver. He was drafted out of Virginia Tech to be the returner first and help out as a backup receiver. But with him emerging as a receiver, will the Broncos risk injury to Royal on returns? Hall and Martinez are options if Royal is kept from returning.
- Center Tom Nalen is supposed to return from a knee injury this week. Still, there are no guarantees when Nalen will be ready to play.