ORLANDO – Vance Joseph went through his offensive line, left to right.
Garett Bolles at left tackle. Nothing new there. Matt Paradis at center, newcomer Jared Veldheer at right tackle. Yes, yes.
“(Ron) Leary being probably out at left guard, again,’’ Joseph, the Broncos’ head coach, said at the annual NFL coaches breakfast here Tuesday.
This had been offered as a possibility and had now been confirmed. The Broncos signed Leary, who had been a starting left guard for the Dallas Cowboys, to a four-year, $36 million contract last year.
They then moved him to right guard because Max Garcia didn’t get the hang of it after playing the previous season at left guard.
So, Leary is back to left guard. That leaves Garcia or Connor McGovern to play right guard.
“I thought (Connor) McGovern played well the last month of the season,’’ Joseph said. “He would have a chance to be our right guard.’’
That makes Garcia - a three-year guard who started 32 games the previous two years at left guard and played much of his rookie season of 2015 as a fill-in at left guard for Evan Mathis and right guard for Louis Vasquez – a swing guard who has to beat out McGovern to start.
“Max would probably have to flip and play both,’’ Joseph said. “That’s the way I see it right now. … I think our football team will be better with Leary playing left guard. Max is a player who has played a lot of football for us, and he’s also played right. At the end of the day, there is going to be competition everywhere. It’s going to be competition, and I know Max. Max wants to play. I know McGovern wants to play. Leary will play.’’
Other Broncos’ topics Joseph addressed Tuesday morning:
One reason why 1,000-yard rusher C.J. Anderson is available for trade is that even if he does return, third-year running back Devontae Booker may be ready to start.
Truth is, Booker might have started last year had he not suffered a broken wrist late in the offseason, an injury that took a while to detect.
He didn’t return until Game 3 of the regular season.
“Missing training camp, that hurt him because we thought it was going to be a fight until the end between him and C.J. as far as who was going to be the guy,’’ Joseph said. “Missing training camp obviously hurt him. … It took time with that hand to kind of get his flex back in his hand and get used to contact and taking care of the football as far as ball security.
“He needs to have a good spring, again, and then stay on the field. That is running backs. If you can stay on the field and you’re a talented guy at running back, you’re going to be productive. But you have to stay healthy. That is a gift that halfbacks have to have.”
Joseph said he hoped to take an inside linebacker in the draft, specifically to fill Corey Nelson’s third-down, cover role. And that position may come within the first three or four rounds.
“We have nine picks in the draft and that’s always a critical spot,’’ Joseph said. “I thought Corey as a linebacker was coming on big. As a part-time player for us—obviously as a (special) teams player—he was a core player for us. That’s definitely an area we have to address in the draft. Having nine draft picks, it going to be fun to finally draft a guy that Reggie (Herring, the Broncos’ linebackers coach) can develop and become a full-time player for us.
“We’ve drafted lower-round guys and (signed) free agents more often at inside backer but we have a chance to draft a guy maybe higher. That’s going to be fun to watch Reggie coach.”
The Broncos are searching for a veteran tight end, most likely through trade, although there are some free agents out there like Antonio Gates and Richard Rodgers.
Even with an addition, the Broncos have faith Jake Butt can return healthy after missing his rookie season to recover from ACL surgery and become a starter.
“We drafted him to be that guy,’’ Joseph said. “(Jeff) Heuerman has made some strides but we are hoping Jake Butt becomes that guy that we hoped he was going to be. Obviously, before the injury in college, he was a guy who was going to be a top two-or three-round player. We are hoping he gets back to that.
“Just being around the kid for a year, he is a pro’s pro. He gets it. He works at it, he studies and he loves it. He will do everything he has to do to be a great player. If I’m betting on Jake, I’m betting it’s going to happen.”
He had trouble keeping weight on during his rookie season, and his performance was uneven. But he still managed to start all 16 games at left tackle – no small feat for a rookie.
“Physically, he has to get bigger and stronger,’’ Joseph said. “That’s his first issue. His second issue is technique. I think having Chris Strausser as his full-time coach is going to help that. I’m excited to watch him grow as a player.
“But as a rookie to survive 16 weeks at left tackle, that’s going to pay dividends for him. I’m excited to watch him come back and get better and better. He’s a talent that just needs time to grow into the position. He is going to be a very good player for us in the future.”
If you can’t stop him, join him. The Broncos’ new strength and conditioning coach has been in the area working with local athletes of all sports, including Broncos.
“Loren Landow is a very bright guy when it comes to training athletes,’’ Joseph said. “It’s really awesome we got him done because half our team trained with him before the draft or the offseason, so all of those guys knew him. When his name came up for the job, I got 20 calls from veteran players who I trust about training. They all pushed Loren.’’