Tag Archives: Kayvon Webster

Learning from the past

It may not be obvious whether Peyton Manning or Tom Brady is the best quarterback of their generation, although we’re sure to hear plenty of bloviating on the subject over the next seven days as they get ready to compete for a berth in the Super Bowl.

On the other hand, there’s not much doubt about the superior Saturday Night Live host.

Following the Broncos’ 24-17 playoff victory over San Diego on Sunday, a reporter wanted to pursue an ESPN “exclusive” that Manning’s future in football will be decided by a neck exam in March. Never mind that this was also true last year and the year before that. An exclusive is an exclusive, after all.

So the reporter asked him, immediately following his first playoff victory as a Bronco, if this is weighing on his mind.

“What’s weighing on my mind is how soon I can get a Bud Light in my mouth,” Manning said. “That’s priority number one.”

Somebody at the ad agency representing Budweiser just went to work.

For two weeks, Manning and the Broncos heard about nothing but history. A digital loop replayed the nightmare from last year’s playoff loss, Rahim Moore amazingly still misjudging the ball after all this time. They were reminded that this nightmare was possible only because Manning’s offense played it conservatively at the end of regulation, trying to eat clock rather than get first downs. As a result, it gave the ball back to the Ravens with just enough time for the infamous pratfall.

They also heard about more recent history, this season’s games against the Chargers, their playoff opponent. San Diego dominated the time of possession in both games by running the ball and stopping the run.

Once this train of reminding got going, nobody could find the brake. The web site Pro Football Talk tweeted more grim numbers just before kickoff Sunday:

“Philip Rivers is 6-2 all-time in Denver. Peyton Manning was 1-5 with the Colts in his last six games against Chargers.”

The fact that Manning went into the game 3-1 against the Chargers as the Broncos’ quarterback, which would seem more recent and more relevant, considering it was the Broncos and not the Colts playing in this game, did not merit mention.

What the Broncos did with all this history was basically what the computer does in WarGames. They learned.

This time, when they got the ball with a chance to run out the clock at the end of regulation, they played more aggressively, passing on third down to maintain possession rather than running to keep the clock ticking.

They also designed an offensive game plan that allowed them to run the ball better, often running out of passing formations that spread the defense. They designed a defensive plan that allowed them to stop the run better, playing more linebackers and fewer defensive backs on more snaps. Between the two, they reversed the Chargers’ time of possession advantage in the first two games.

After rushing for a pathetic 18 net yards in their loss to the Chargers in December, the Broncos racked up 133 this time — 82 from Knowshon Moreno and 52 from rookie Montee Ball. After giving up 177 rushing yards in that loss, they surrendered only 65 this time. It didn’t hurt that the Chargers’ best running back, Ryan Mathews, was hobbled by an ankle sprain. After rushing for 127 yards in the Chargers victory, he managed only five carries for 26 yards in this one.

All of this added up to domination of the game for the first three quarters. Clad in orange on a crisp, windy day, Mile High rumbled with enthusiasm when the Chargers had the ball and turned into a library when Manning was engineering the no-huddle. The Broncos didn’t score as much as they usually do, in part because of their long, patient drives and in part because one of them ended when Manning threw a pass off Eric Decker’s chest that turned into an interception in the end zone.

Still, they led 17-0 after three quarters and their defense looked dominant.

Then cornerback Chris Harris went out of the game and, just like that, the defensive dominance disappeared. We’ll come back to that in a minute. But that’s why, just like last year, the Broncos found themselves protecting a seven-point lead in the waning minutes.

Last year, up 35-28 on the Ravens with two minutes to play, the Broncos faced a third-and-7. Rather than attempt to throw for the first down to maintain possession, they called a running play to burn precious seconds off the clock. They were forced to punt and everybody knows what happened after that.

This year, leading the Chargers 24-17 with three minutes to play, they faced a third-and-17 from their own 20-yard line. Offensive coordinator Adam Gase ordered what Manning would call “a wheel-type route” for tight end Julius Thomas. With the pocket collapsing around him, Manning waited patiently for the route to develop down the field. Then he hit a wide-open Thomas down the right sideline for 21 yards and a first down.

“Third-and-17, you know you’re going to have to hold the ball a little bit longer just to give guys a chance to get down the field,” Manning said. “It was the perfect call against the perfect coverage, which you may get one or two of those a game. It certainly came at a good time. Adam dialed it up. It was something we worked on, and it was nice we were able to execute.”

Moments later, the Broncos were presented with a virtual replay of last year’s call. With 2:12 showing, they faced a third-and-6 from their 45. Again, Gase called for a pass. Again, Manning found his big tight end, this time for nine yards and another first down.

It seemed vaguely Shakespearean that Mike McCoy, the offensive coordinator who ordered the running plays that led to defeat a year ago, was on the opposite sideline Sunday, coaching the Chargers and watching his successor correct his mistake.

“Certainly two huge third-down conversions, which were the difference in the ball game,” Manning said.

The successive first downs exhausted the Chargers’ timeouts. From there, the Broncos were able to run out the clock. The Chargers never got the ball back and never had an opportunity to pull off the miracle finish the Ravens managed a year ago.

“I think there’s been a lot of changes since last year,” Manning said. “We are much more experienced. We’ve been through a lot and have been in different situations. Those were two huge plays. I really loved Adam’s aggressive calls. Julius and I have spent a lot of time working on those particular routes — after practice, in practice. To me, that is one of the most rewarding parts of football. When you put that work in off to the side or after practice and it pays off in a game, it really makes it feel like it was worth it. Those two plays specifically were certainly worth the hard work.”

So if the Broncos continue to be such good students of the past, perhaps they can come up with a way to beat Brady and the Patriots next week and advance to the Super Bowl in New Jersey. But first, they’ll have to look carefully at what happened in the fourth quarter Sunday.

“We got it going pretty good, and they knew it,” said Rivers, the Chargers’ quarterback. “If we got it one more time, I believe deep down that we would’ve tied that thing up. But we didn’t. Those are all a bunch of what-ifs.”

Through three quarters, the Chargers had five first downs and 25 net passing yards. In the fourth, they had eight and 169.

Did the Broncos lay back in a somewhat softer defense with a three-score lead to start the quarter? Sure, there were a couple of zones in there. But the most obvious difference in their defense was the substitution of veteran Quentin Jammer for Harris late in the third quarter, when Harris went out with what the club reported as a knee or ankle issue. Coach John Fox said he had no update afterward, making Harris’ health the biggest question of the coming week.

For three quarters, the Broncos’ defensive success was based on their ability to leave their cornerbacks in man-to-man coverage on San Diego’s wide receivers while everybody else played the run first. With Harris and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the outside and Champ Bailey playing nickel back covering the slot, it worked well. Once Harris went out, it didn’t.

Suddenly, the Chargers were reeling off big plays in the passing game. Jammer, the longtime Charger, always seemed to be at the scene of the crime. On San Diego’s first scoring drive, he lined up opposite former Bronco Eddie Royal, who ran a crossing route. Somewhere about the middle of the field, Jammer suddenly turned and looked back to the side he had vacated, as if unsure of the scheme. Royal ran away from him to the other side of the field. Rivers hit him and Royal turned upfield, gaining 30 yards. Moments later, Rivers went after Jammer again, throwing a 16-yard touchdown pass over him to Keenan Allen.

Manning responded by marching the Broncos down the field for another touchdown to make it 24-7 with 8:12 left. Again, a three-score lead looked comfortable. In fact, when Rivers made the mistake of going after Rodgers-Cromartie twice in a row on San Diego’s next possession, the Chargers faced a fourth-and-5 at their own 25-yard line. If the Broncos had stopped them there, they might have coasted home.

Instead, Rivers, who had ignored the Allen-Jammer matchup on third down, went deep for Allen on fourth. Jammer stumbled turning to follow Allen’s out move and the Chargers’ rookie star was wide open when Rivers hit him for a 49-yard gain. A minute later, it was 24-14, and two minutes after that, following a successful onside kick, 24-17.

This is what set up the Broncos’ final possession and the aggressive play-calling and execution that allowed them to protect a one-touchdown lead and close out the win.

Perhaps blaming this sudden change in the dynamic on Jammer is too simplistic. No doubt there were others who made mistakes as well. But if Harris is not ready to resume his role for next week’s AFC championship game at Mile High, the Broncos will have a decision to make.

Sunday, they had basically three options. They could have subbed in rookie Kayvon Webster, but it was Webster that Rivers victimized in the Chargers’ December victory. Just as Manning targeted Chiefs rookie cornerback Marcus Cooper a few weeks before, Rivers pretty much threw at whoever Webster was covering until Webster was removed from the game.

They could have moved Champ Bailey to the outside. Bailey missed much of the season with a foot injury. Broncos coaches have been easing him back in as a nickel back, limiting his snaps. Still, I was a little surprised they didn’t move him outside for the final 15 minutes of Sunday’s game when Harris went down. After all, he’s been to 12 Pro Bowls, most recently last year.

Jammer was the third option, and the one they chose, perhaps because he played for the Chargers all those years and perhaps because he’s the guy who replaced Webster after Rivers toasted the rookie in December.

A fourth option would be Tony Carter, but he was inactive for Sunday’s game. That will probably change next week if Harris is unavailable.

Against the Patriots next week, the Broncos will need a game plan similar to the one they executed Sunday. The Patriots rushed for 234 yards Saturday in beating the Colts, 43-22. They scored all six of their touchdowns on the ground. But if the Broncos are going to leave their corners on islands against Brady, those corners will have to play as well as Rodgers-Cromartie and Harris did Sunday.

The Broncos will also have to learn what they can from their loss at New England just before Thanksgiving. In a game shaped by cold, windy conditions, the Patriots fumbled six times, losing three, before intermission. Von Miller returned one of them 60 yards for a touchdown and the Broncos led 24-0 at halftime.

The second half was pretty much a mirror image. It was the Broncos who turned it over three times and the Patriots who came back to take a 31-24 lead. The Broncos regrouped, driving for a tying touchdown near the end of the fourth quarter, but a freak play in overtime — a punt bouncing off Carter, who was on the coverage unit — handed New England a three-point win.

Offensively, the Broncos should be at full strength against the Patriots. Wes Welker, the former Patriot, returned to action following a concussion wearing a helmet nearly as big as he is.

“I’ve been practicing with it the last few weeks, so I got used to it, but it is kind of looking like The Jetsons out there,” Welker said.

“It was the first time since November that we’ve had Decker and (Demaryius) Thomas and Julius and Welker on the field together,” Manning said. “We’ve battled through some injuries.”

This was Manning’s theme going into the game. He told his teammates to be proud of what many outsiders seemed to take for granted.

“I talked to the team last night,” he reported. “I said, ‘You need to be commended for getting back to this point.’ We’ve been through more this year — it’s hard to explain all the stuff we’ve been through, offseason and in-season. To get to this point was really hard work, and to win this game was really hard work. We are proud and happy to be at this point, and we certainly want to keep it going.”

The Broncos exorcised one demon Sunday. Another awaits. In between, at least one of them had a Bud Light.

Mike McCoy’s template to beat the Broncos

About twenty minutes after John Fox announced he had no injuries to report from Thursday night’s game — other than wounded pride, perhaps — rookie cornerback Kayvon Webster tweeted he would have surgery in the morning.

In case you needed further evidence that the Broncos were not on the same page.

Having seen him after the game, I am relieved to report Webster had no visible burns, despite being toasted by Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. When it became clear Rivers was going to throw the ball at whomever Webster was covering, the Broncos finally removed him from the game. The fact that Fox didn’t know about the injury afterward suggests it was a benching rather than an injury substitution. Reportedly, Webster will have surgery on a thumb and miss perhaps a week.

It was that kind of night. Twice the Broncos defense was penalized for having too many players on the field, and they used a timeout to prevent a third. A special-teams player, Nate Irving, was so eager to make a play that he jumped offsides and turned a Chargers punt from inside their 10-yard line into a first down that allowed the San Diego Time Machine to remove another seven minutes from the game clock in the third quarter, when time was starting to matter.

Not only that, the Broncos’ fabulous offensive engine, the most prolific in NFL history going in, suddenly fell out of tune. After a reasonably sharp first quarter that produced a 10-3 lead, it was shut out in consecutive quarters for the first time this season. In the second quarter, it went three-and-out three times in a row. Its yardage for the quarter was minus one. In the fourth quarter, when the Broncos still had a chance to pull it out, they made a mistake in pass protection that turned a throw-away into an interception.

And a loss. Not to bury the lead, the Broncos lost, 27-20, for just the third time in fourteen games. Also the third time in eight games. They started out 6-0. They’re 5-3 since. This has various implications for the playoffs, but this loss in particular did something else. It established a template for beating the Broncos in the playoffs.

Mike McCoy, the Chargers’ head coach and former Broncos offensive coordinator, has been working on this for a while. He knows the Broncos organization and talent as well as anyone. He employed the same template five weeks ago, in San Diego, when the teams met for the first time. The Broncos won that day, 28-20, but the Chargers had the ball almost twice as long — 38 minutes to 22 for the Broncos. Thursday night those numbers were 39 and 21.

So the Broncos could have won, as they did in San Diego, despite the limited time of possession. But McCoy tweaked his template based on what he learned the last time. The Chargers had to settle for field goals in the first game and fell behind 21-6. They settled for one on their first possession Thursday, too. But they also scored touchdowns, which allowed them to avoid having to play catch-up. As important, they held the mighty Broncos’ engine to two touchdowns, thereby changing the odds on all those records waiting to be broken.

The result of McCoy’s template wasn’t pretty. Denver couldn’t run the ball and couldn’t stop the run. The Broncos had 18 yards rushing — total, for the game — while surrendering 177.

They couldn’t convert on third down. They averaged 5.8 yards on first down and 6.4 on second. Which would make you think there wouldn’t be that many third downs. And there weren’t — nine out of 26 first downs — but they averaged only 2.2 yards on them and converted only two into fresh downs.

“I give San Diego’s defense a lot of credit,” said Peyton Manning, who added two touchdown passes to his season total. He’s now three shy of the record. “They played well on defense and we were not as sharp, we just didn’t play as well and didn’t stay on the field. We didn’t have the ball much, and when we had it, we didn’t do enough with it. Give San Diego credit. They played better than we did.”

You can attribute this to the law of averages or the short week. The Broncos lost a chance to produce a perfect record in home games for the sixth time in their history. In fact, Manning seemed to have a premonition four days before, suggesting that the dominating 91 plays run by the offense in a win over Tennessee on Sunday might not be the ideal scenario going into a short week.

McCoy’s template relies on the inability of the Broncos’ defense to get off the field, and that’s a legitimate problem. They went into the game ranked 25th after ranking in the top five a year ago. Von Miller is a nice player but nowhere near the dominant defender he was a year ago. Elvis Dumervil is gone. Kevin Vickerson, Derek Wolfe and Champ Bailey are out.

The Chargers ran against the base defense, against eight in the box and against the nickel — 44 times in all. When Rivers needed to make a play in the passing game, he did, throwing two touchdowns to rookie Keenan Allen. The Chargers converted half of their third downs.

“We didn’t mention time of possession one time this week,” Rivers said. “We mentioned the fact that we had to score. We had to score touchdowns and not field goals. We didn’t do it every time, but we did it a couple of times that were key.”

“A lot of big plays at critical moments in the game,” McCoy said. “The interception at the end of the game — outstanding. A number of three-and-outs by the defense. Give (defensive coordinator) John Pagano a lot of credit for the defensive game plan that he put in this week . . . . Peyton’s the best in the business, one of the best of all time, so the longer you keep the ball and the less he has it, the better off you’re going to be.”

The Broncos used all their available defensive backs, replacing Webster eventually with veteran Quentin Jammer, the former Charger. But they struggled in coverage at the safety position as well. They used both Paris Lenon and Wesley Woodyard at middle linebacker, trying to find an answer to the Chargers’ running game.

They still hold the first seed in the AFC, but New England can tie them with a win in Miami on Sunday. The Patriots have the tie-breaker, having beaten the Broncos in Foxborough three weeks ago, which means the Patriots would have to lose again — they play at Baltimore and at home against Buffalo after the Miami game — for the Broncos to recapture the top seed.

The defense would certainly benefit if Wolfe and Bailey could return at full strength, but it’s not clear when that might happen. As for the offense, Thursday’s rare consecutive breakdowns were mainly good plays by the Chargers. The first three-and-out included nose tackle Cam Thomas shedding center Manny Ramirez and stuffing running back Knowshon Moreno, safety Eric Weddle leaping high into the air at the line of scrimmage to bat away a Manning pass and perfect coverage by cornerback Shareece Wright on a third-down go route.

The second three-and-out included routine gains of three and five yards on first and second downs and then a disastrous breakdown in pass protection on third-and-2. Defensive end Corey Liuget, who hit Manning low in San Diego five weeks ago, aggravating an ankle injury, lined up opposite left guard Zane Beadles. At the snap, Beadles pulled out and headed to the right as if leading a running play or screen. That left a hole between tackle Chris Clark and center Manny Ramirez. Both tried to fill it, but Liuget barged between them and charged at Manning. Manning spun away and ran left. Blitzing safety Marcus Gilchrist persuaded him to go to the ground for a loss of 12.

The third three-and-out came with a minute left and Manning trying to use the sideline to save time. As Julius Thomas turned to find the third-down pass, it whizzed by him.

The worst break down came in the fourth quarter. With Wes Welker out after suffering his second concussion in three weeks, Manning connected with Andre Caldwell, the team’s fourth receiver, for two touchdowns. The second cut the deficit to 24-17 early in the fourth. When the Broncos got the ball back with 5:50 to play, they were 97 yards from the end zone with a chance to drive the length of the field and tie the score. Two completions and a 15-yard penalty on Weddle for a horse-collar tackle moved the ball to the 33. Then came the disastrous interception.

It was again Liuget’s doing. Manning wanted to throw to Julius Thomas near the left sideline. Liuget was initially double-teamed by Clark and Beadles, who seemed to have him stymied. Then Beadles broke away, looking to pick up somebody else. But there was nobody else to pick up, so Beadles found himself blocking air while Liuget used the space he had just vacated to shove past Clark and hit Manning’s arm as he threw, creating the jump ball that linebacker Thomas Keiser corralled.

By the time the Broncos got the ball back, 2:36 remained and they trailed by two scores. They managed a field goal and a failed onside kick.

The advantage to the short week, of course, is it is followed by a long week. The Broncos will rest up this weekend before going back to work for the last two games of the regular season, road contests at Houston and Oakland. The question that will probably have to await an answer until the playoffs is whether McCoy’s template can be replicated.

Postcards from the Broncos’ bubble

Forty-five hours before final cuts were due at the NFL offices in New York, 75 players dressed for the Broncos’ final preseason game. By Saturday afternoon, only 53 of them will still be employed.

Twenty-seven players, including the starters, didn’t play in the final exhibition. Their attention is already focused on the season opener against Baltimore next week. The other 48 spent the warm summer evening competing for 26 jobs.

Although the game doesn’t count, and without stars is the least compelling week of the season, it produces lots of important decisions. As you may have heard, football is a violent game that often injures its participants. So the makeup of the back end of a team’s roster can have a lot to do with how far it will go in the long season ahead. These are the people who were auditioning Thursday night at Mile High.

People like Zac Dysert, a big, athletic, rookie quarterback from Miami of Ohio, where he was a three-year team captain and put up passing numbers that approached those of Ben Roethlisberger.

A seventh-round draft choice, Dysert played the entire second half. He completed nine of 20 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown for a passer rating of 90.2. He rushed three times for 23 yards, besting Brock Osweiler, the No. 2 quarterback and heir apparent to Peyton Manning, who scrambled four times for 25 yards.

After Dysert’s first series, a six-play, 94-yard touchdown drive, he was three-for-three for 70 yards and a touchdown, with a passer rating of 158.3, which is the best passer rating possible. Do not ask why.

A week ago, the Broncos might have waived Dysert in final cuts, confident he would clear waivers, what with every other team trying to get down to the roster limit too. Then they could sign him to their practice squad and keep him around, just in case.

After Thursday night, the question is whether they want to expose him to the likes of Buffalo and the New York Jets, but particularly the Bills, who appear set to start an undrafted college free agent in their opener next week. Dysert, at least, was drafted. If the Broncos don’t want to risk losing him, they would have to devote one of their 53 roster spots to someone who would not contribute on the field except in the case of an emergency.

That’s just one of the difficult decisions facing Broncos brass. Wide receiver Gerell Robinson is another. In his second Broncos training camp, Robinson had a nice game — five receptions for 99 yards — including a touchdown catch on a pass from Dysert to cap that 94-yard drive.

But how many receivers will they keep?┬áThe Broncos’ answer was five each of the first two seasons in which John Elway and John Fox were in charge. The depth chart shows three wide receivers as the base offensive set.

The starters are Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker. It would be surprising if veteran Andre Caldwell and fifth-round draft pick Tavarres King were not on the final 53. So the club would have to keep more wideouts than it has in either of the past two seasons for Robinson to make it.

Then there’s the scrum in the defensive backfield. The Broncos brought in veteran cornerback Quentin Jammer with the idea of moving him to safety to add experience and coverage ability there. But Jammer, the fifth overall pick in the 2002 NFL draft, showed remarkably little feel at safety and now seems likely to be waived.

So five days ago, the Broncos moved cornerback Omar Bolden, their fourth-round pick a year ago, to safety. Bolden played there Thursday night, and did it pretty well.

If Bolden makes the team as a combo defensive back they can list at safety, the Broncos would have five corners (Champ Bailey, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Chris Harris, Tony Carter and third-round draft pick Kayvon Webster) and five safeties (Rahim Moore, Duke Ihenacho, Mike Adams, David Bruton and Bolden). That’s 10 DBs. They kept 10 last year, but only nine the year before.

If they keep just nine, would the veteran Adams be on the bubble with the emergence in this camp of Ihenacho? Could Carter be on the bubble with the emergence of Webster?

I could keep going like this through every position group, but I’ll spare you so we can hear from some of the folks fighting for jobs. Two of them are interior offensive linemen. The Broncos have lost two centers to major injuries over the past year and they’re scrambling there.

They moved guard Manny Ramirez to center during the offseason, even before veteran Dan Koppen tore an anterior cruciate ligament in July, and Ramirez has been good enough to win the starting job, sort of by default.

They brought in veteran Steve Vallos, who has built an NFL career as a backup center/guard. They wooed veteran Ryan Lilja out of retirement. Lilja was a longtime guard in the huddle with Manning in Indianapolis who became a center last year in Kansas City. The Broncos brought him to camp just months after he’d had microfracture knee surgery.

I caught Lilja at his locker after Thursday night’s game. He was in a hurry to leave. He started the game at center but came out before any other starting lineman and was replaced by Vallos, who played the rest of the game. Several times, it looked as if his knee was bothering him. You can read his brief comments for yourself. I got a sense that he was done and cut off the interview so he wouldn’t have to say anything that wasn’t true.

I could be totally wrong about that, of course. For all I know, he’s already cemented his status as the backup center and they just wanted to get him off that knee. But I thought Vallos played better and was more mobile, particularly on the downfield block that helped spring Lance Ball break for a 69-yard gain after catching a screen pass from Dysert.

So I talked to a few of the guys fighting for jobs and tried to get a feel for their mindsets going into the next day and a half, when they’ll get a call from the Broncos asking them to bring in their iPads . . . or not.

Quarterback Zac Dysert

You looked pretty good out there tonight.

I tried. I’ve got to give a lot of credit to the O-line. The receivers, they made me look good. I just tried not to do too much. I just tried to do my job, put the team in a position to win. That’s all I was trying to do.

Have you thought about making the 53-man roster versus possibly being waived with the intent of signing you back to the practice squad?

Definitely, definitely. I tried to use tonight to my advantage, make the most out of the opportunity and just try to prove myself to them, that I can play.

Do you think you made a good case?

I think I did some good things. Definitely have a lot to work on still, but I think I did a lot of positive things, yes sir.

You’ve been a quarterback in a training camp with Peyton Manning. What’s that like?

Oh, it’s awesome. I can’t really put it into words, how awesome it was. He was my idol growing up, so being able to sit in the same room with him, on the same field, learn from him, practice with him, you can’t really put it into words.

Did he give you any advice when you were playing tonight?

He was just giving me keys to look for, what the defense was doing, little tips to what kind of coverage they might be playing, blitzes they were bringing, things like that.

What are you thinking about the process that will unfold over the next 48 hours?

Denver’s definitely the first choice, but, you know, if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. I’ve just got to make the most out of the opportunity I get.

Center Steve Vallos

What was your goal tonight?

Just prove myself. Anytime you get to step on the field, it’s just another opportunity to prove yourself, especially in these preseason games, because every team looks at them. You never know what can happen.

You were brought into an unsettled situation in the interior of the offensive line.

It’s made me better. Interior, guards, center, we have a lot of good players. You learn things from everybody. It’s a competition, so that makes everybody better. We’ll see what happens. I mean, I think a lot of guys played well this preseason, so it’s going to be tough choices for them.

Do you have any feel for where you stand?

You never know. I’ve felt good and bad things have happened and I’ve felt bad and good things have happened. It’s just one of those things where it’s out of your control. I’ve done everything in my power, so it’s not up to me now . . . . I felt like I had a good camp for coming in late; I felt I did pretty well.

What was it like as a center working with Peyton Manning?

It was a good experience. I mean, he’s a great player. He’s so knowledgeable about every part of the game and it really brings everybody up to his level. He expects everyone to have a high understanding of the game and I think that’s good for the whole team.

Is that challenging for a center?

I wouldn’t say it’s challenging because I’ve been in offenses where the center has to make a lot more calls. (Manning) knows it and he sees it and he calls stuff. It’s a lot easier than playing with a young quarterback that doesn’t know things, where a center has to make more calls. I think sometimes it’s a lot easier because he knows what’s coming and he’ll change protections and stuff.

Center Ryan Lilja

They brought you in here out of retirement, not long after you had microfracture surgery. How did it go?

It’s obviously tough to come out and just jump right into the fire like that in training camp, try to catch up a little bit. So it wasn’t ideal. Kind of a balancing act, trying to gain a little weight, learn the offense, learn all the calls, stay healthy, while it’s all going like this (snaps fingers).

Jeff Saturday dropped something like 60 pounds after he retired last year. Were you dropping weight before the Broncos called?

I wasn’t down quite as much as Jeff, but I dropped about 20. I was just working on just trying to stay healthy and just kind of make the transition back into retirement. This was an opportunity that I thought was too good to pass up, so we’ll see how it works out. Hey, I gotta go (exits).

Cornerback Kayvon Webster

You made a couple of big hits that drew flags, but it looked like your coaches were smiling.

I’m pretty sure they thought it wasn’t a flag. They just was happy to see the young guy like me come in and make plays like they drafted me to do, so they was kind of excited.

How important is that sort of physical play to your game?

I think it’s real important. You never want to go out there and not give it your all, tackling and stuff like that. When I go out there, I try to put a lot of people’s game in one — tackle, cover, catch and do all those things.

How do you feel your camp has gone?

I think camp went really well. I learned a lot from the veteran guys that we have in the secondary position and I think I’m improving day in and day out.

Are you nervous about the next 48 hours?

You can’t worry about those things. It’s already written. God already has a plan and in the morning whatever happens, happens. If I’m not here, gotta go somewhere else and do my job. But if I’m here, they’re going to get my very best every day.

No trouble sleeping?

No trouble sleeping.

Cornerback/safety Omar Bolden

What’s the biggest difference for you this year compared to last, when you were a rookie?

Mentally, I’ve grasped the game so much more this year, as far as understanding the defense, understanding my responsibilities and where I have to be. And physically, I feel like I’m back to the guy that I used to be. Coming off an ACL, sometimes in the media we try to be politically correct and tell you guys the right things, so I’m always going to say I feel good, but that first year, man, it was shaky, just coming off the injury, trying to get your groove back and stuff like that. But at this point, man, all that is out the window.

What’s the biggest issue coming off an ACL repair?

To be honest, it’s kind of just a confidence thing. It’s like, can I still do the things that I used to do? Can I do them as fast, and as sudden, as I used to do them? And then with repetition, you gain that confidence back.

So they bring in a veteran like Quentin Jammer to play some safety and then suddenly at the end of camp they ask you to move to safety. How did you react to that?

I’ve grasped more of the defense this year, so it’s not too hard for me to make that switch, just because I understand a little bit more. But basically I was just out there playing today. I was kind of telling myself before the play, “It doesn’t matter what happens, just play, just play fast and play physical.”

Do you have a preference between corner and safety?

To be honest, I’m trying to do whatever I can do to get on the field. So if that’s at safety, if it’s at nickel, if it’s at corner, I’m versatile.

Do you get nervous about final cuts?

I don’t. I’m a ballplayer, man, so if the situation didn’t work out here for me, I know I’ll find a home somewhere. So I kind of just don’t worry about that. If my phone rings, then it rings. If it doesn’t, at the end of the day, I’m happy with what I put on film.

Is that a different feeling from the one you had this time a year ago?

Last year, even though I was drafted, it’s so intense around cut time, man. It’s like, have I done enough? This time, this year, I feel like I’ve put enough on film and I’m just going to let the chips fall where they fall. That’s how it is in this business. You don’t control that. What we do control is what goes on between those white lines.