Broncos special teams coach pleased with unit's turnaround

Updated: November 16, 2007, 5:29 PM ET
Associated Press

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Scott O'Brien has been a special teams coach far too long to fret.

So he wasn't that worried when the Broncos struggled early and were near the bottom in virtually every special teams category.

O'Brien, who was brought in this season to overhaul the Broncos' special teams units, knew his squad would turn it around. They just needed time.

Now, his patience is being rewarded. The Broncos have been a vastly improved special teams unit since the bye week Oct. 14.

Over the last four games, Denver's punt coverage unit is giving up an average of 5.4 yards per return. Before the bye week, the squad was allowing 20.5 yards.

On kickoff coverage, Denver was giving up 25.8 yards before the bye and 18.3 after.

"What I do I believe in," said O'Brien, who's handled special teams duties throughout his NFL tenure, which began in 1991 with the Cleveland Browns. "It was just a matter of getting the guys to believe in that and in themselves. They know how important it is. It's not an easy job, but everybody looks for them to get that done for us."

Denver brought in free agent special teams player Jordan Beck in October to help bolster the squad. Beck had 13 special-teams tackles with Atlanta last season.

Although he's played in just four games, Beck is already tied with Steve Cargile and Champ Bailey with five stops on special teams.

"I'm just happy to contribute," Beck said. "We've got good energy as a unit and we're making some plays. We're hyped up and ready to go. You have to be full tilt and all out on every play for special teams. If you hesitate, that's when you get in trouble."

Punter Todd Sauerbrun is having one of the best seasons of his career. He's averaging a career-best 48.5 yards per punt, fourth in the NFL. He's also pinned opponents inside their 20 yard line 11 times this season.

"He's done a very good job for us," O'Brien said.

However, Sauerbrun did have a kick blocked out of the back of the end zone for a safety against Kansas City.

"We've shored it up," Beck said. "It was definitely correctable."

Although the Broncos' special teams units have made remarkable progress lately, O'Brien said there's plenty of work left to do.

"It doesn't get any easier from here, it gets harder," O'Brien said. "But they've been great. They've been one of the best groups I've been around. It just takes time."

Not to mention a little patience. ^------=

^WAIT AND SEE:@ Broncos coach Mike Shanahan doesn't expect to hear from Travis Henry on how his hearing with the league went on Friday.

The Denver Broncos running back is trying to keep the league from suspending him over the results of a drug test. If he's unsuccessful, he faces a yearlong suspension.

"I don't have any reason to talk to Travis (Friday)," Shanahan said.

As for when the Broncos will hear back from the league regarding Henry's case, Shanahan didn't know.

"I don't know if it will be the following week, two days later or nine days later," Shanahan said. "It depends on how long it takes to make a decision."

Henry's availability for Monday night is listed as questionable. He has a partial tear of the posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Henry, who said Thursday he's not quite 100 percent, will be a game-time decision. ^------=

^ROSY OUTLOOK:@ The Broncos have their swagger back following the 27-11 win at Kansas City last Sunday. That's what snapping a two-game slide will do for a team -- give them an instant shot of confidence.

"We definitely have our head up this week," receiver Brandon Marshall said. "We're not on egg shells, so that's good. Just like losing is contagious, winning is contagious. When you get that confidence and that swagger going, sometimes you can be unstoppable."

Denver hasn't had consecutive victories since the first two weeks of the season, on two game-winning field goals by Jason Elam.

"This is a chance for us to get back on track," Dre' Bly said. "From this point on, we can't afford to take any steps back." ^------=

^FIRST DOWNS:@ WR Javon Walker has been ruled out for Monday night's game. He's recovering from surgery on his right knee earlier this season. ... The Broncos are 10-4 at home under Shanahan on Monday night. The team lost 19-13 in overtime to Green Bay on Monday night earlier in the season. ... RB Selvin Young was the 12th Denver tailback to rush for 100 yards in a regular season game since 1995. Young had 109 yards against Kansas City. "It was a great feeling," he said. ... Shanahan expects S John Lynch to play Monday night against Tennessee despite a pinched nerve in his neck. He's missed the last two games. ... RB Paul Smith is listed as questionable with a calf injury.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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