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Elway, Russell Chat with Fans

Posted Sep 4, 2012

On Tuesday, Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway and Director of Player Personnel Matt Russell answered questions directly from fans during an hour-long Fan Forum.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- On Tuesday, the Broncos hosted another fan forum -- this time with Denver Broncos Facebook fans as well as season-ticket holders.

The conference call with Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway and Director of Player Personnel Matt Russell drew more than 8,000 fans.

The forum lasted an hour, but drew rave reviews right away.

"First of all, thank you for having a fan forum," said Dwayne, a season ticket holder for 20 years. "It's awesome.

Over the course of the call, Elway and Russell addressed topics ranging from how the team will utilize rookies Ronnie Hillman and Derek Wolfe to how the fans can make Sports Authority Field at Mile High a scary place for opposing teams.

Some of the key points of the forum will be covered below. As he finished his final answer, Elway made sure to thank everyone for taking part in the event, which created a unique opportunity for the Pro Football Hall of Famer to talk directly with Broncos fans.

"We appreciate everybody calling in and being on this phone call," Elway said. "The Denver Broncos organization is thrilled with not only being a part of this community, but the support that we get from this community as well as the Rocky Mountain region. I can tell you as a player, there’s not a better place to be, there’s not a better organization. We’ve got the best owner in the NFL. You’re going to see an exciting football game on Sunday night. I’m just hoping that we’ll come out on top. We have to get off to a fast start. We have three out of the first four at home. We’re looking forward to getting started, and again, we appreciate all your support.”

QUICK HITS

Russell, on the nonstop process of player evaluation
"We’re always evaluating players. We’re constantly watching tape, evaluating pro players. For me, personally, I’ll probably hit the road next week and start the college side of things. I’ll make an effort to hit 25 schools, roughly, between now and Thanksgiving. So my work will be split up between pro and college. When I’m gone, (Director of Pro Personnel) Keith Kidd will be here and he’ll continue to grind on pro tape and constantly continue to evaluate guys on other teams. We’re always looking to continue to add and get better.”

Elway, on the team's pass rush
"We feel that’s one of the strongest areas on our defensive side – the ability to get after the quarterback – which in the long run makes us that much better in the secondary, which we think we’ve upgraded this offseason. And we’ve seen that come to fruition in the preseason.”

Russell, on rookie defensive end Derek Wolfe:
"Derek’s done everything since he’s been here. He has not practiced like a rookie. He came here with a purpose. He wants to contribute, he’s a winner. You can trust him. He gets in his playbook. He knows his assignments. In looking at the pick right now, roughly three or four months out of the draft, we couldn’t be happier.”

Elway, on making sure Sports Authority Field at Mile High provides a home-field advantage
"I think that really comes down to us, as a football team and an organization, to be able to make an emphasis that when we do play at home, we have to win at home. With the great fan base that we have, back in the 80s and 90s, we thought we could beat anybody at home. We have to get that mentality back, especially with the schedule we have this year. We have three of the first four at home, the opener with Pittsburgh and then Houston and the Raiders in Weeks 3 and 4. We have to get off to a quick start. It’s a huge benefit for us to be able to play at Mile High and so hopefully we’ll take advantage of that this year."

Russell, on rookie running back Ronnie Hillman
"He’s an electric guy. Guys like that are incredibly beneficial for your offense because it creates so many mismatches when it’s facing defenses. A guy like Ronnie, he’s exciting when he touches the ball. He can catch the ball, he’s very electric running the ball, he makes defensive coordinators worry when they face a guy like that. I think it’s important in our division we have a guy like that. We have a great, diverse backfield. We have some bigger backs that can pound it up inside, and we have some smaller backs who you’ve got a homerun threat every time they touch a ball. A guy like Ronnie, he’s had a good camp, he played very well against Arizona, and we’re excited to have him. He can contribute.”

Elway, on running back Knowshon Moreno
"Knowshon is a guy that is very good on third down and does a great job with protection. As we saw with the last couple weeks, Knowshon is running with much more patience and being able to pick his holes and run the ball more effectively than he has in the past. And his knee is finally healthy, so we really thought that Knowshon has really started to prove himself, has really started to take strides, has really started to mature as a back. Plus, he’s so invaluable on third down because of his ability not only to run routes out of the backfield on third down, but also does a tremendous job in protections and knowing the right guy to pick up and then having the ability to pick him up. That’s one of those things that goes unsung with a running back – the importance of third down and the ability to pick up the blitz.”

Russell, on defensive schemes
"(Defensive Coordinator) Jack Del Rio really doesn’t believe in being exclusively 4-3 or 3-4. We’re going to match up the best we can week in and week out with the players we have on our team. Now if that’s 3-4 one week, we might show some 3-4, it might be 4-3 the next week. But it’s a very flexible defense that really works well with the players that you have on your team. You don’t want to force players into roles that they’re uncomfortable with or physically they can’t do. So Jack (Del Rio) is really good about taking the player, accentuating his strengths and playing him whatever we feel like is going to stop that team in any given week. … We're going to do some different things on defense that we're excited about."

Elway, on the depth chart
"When you go into a football game on Sunday afternoon and you go in with 46 guys, every one of those 46 guys is going to have a role. So whether you’re in there, called a starter or you’re a backup, everybody that goes into that game -- hopefully (except) the backup quarterback -- is going to be involved in playing that football game. … When you look at a depth chart, it’s not necessarily who’s the next guy in. It’s just a matter of how they’re placed and (it’s) really not that important, knowing that going into a game, everybody’s going to be a part of the win.”

Russell, on linebacker Keith Brooking
“When you look at a guy like Keith, he’s had a storied career, he’s been to Pro Bowls. He has played 16 years. We evaluated the tape last year when Keith was at Dallas. We felt like he still has something to bring to the table and contribute to the team. All the veteran guys, you talk about smarts and leadership and a presence in the locker room, those things are all extremely important. It’s something we place a lot of emphasis on. But the deciding factor is there’s a lot of those guys out there that just can’t play anymore. A guy like Keith, he wouldn’t be here if we didn’t feel like he could contribute and get on the field and help us out. … It’s critical to have guys like Keith, guys like (safety) Jim Leonhard to teach those young guys how to prepare and kind of bring them along through the season. He (Brooking) is an asset for us.”

Elway, on running back Willis McGahee's workload
"With Willis McGahee, Lance Ball, Knowshon Moreno, and Ronnie Hillman, we feel like we really have a good set of backs. I think the thing is, when running backs start to get a little bit older, you have to manage their workload, not only in practice but also in games. I think we feel great about the depth there. The last thing we want to do with Willis is wear him out. He does a good job on first and second down and he’s tremendous between the tackles. He still has great feet as a big back at 240 pounds. And he has the ability at times to be able to break one, and does some good things on third down for us. It’s important to run him and continue to manage him, but make sure we don’t overuse him.”

On chemistry in the locker room
Elway: “I’m excited about the locker room. I think the locker room is probably as important as the talent that you have on your football team. I think the one thing that we’ve concentrated on over the last couple years is to bring in quality guys that will fit in your locker room. When I look back on my career, and the years that we had great years, we always had a great locker room. Not everybody is going to be an angel in that locker room, but if your core group of guys is strong enough, then the guys that are on the outside will fall in line and therefore, you don’t have a bunch of little cliques in your locker room. We’ve got a good group of leaders and veterans on this team with also some young guys that are willing to listen and learn. I like the way the locker room is coming along. Plus, having Peyton Manning in there, with the respect that he has throughout the league and also in that locker room, having those guys see what a true Hall-of-Famer looks like in practice day-in and day-out. I think that’s been a positive influence for everybody having Peyton in that locker room plus just the quality of people we have down there.”

Russell: “When you talk about a locker room, you talk about guys from all over the country with different backgrounds, and you sit back and watch those guys interact. I think what’s special is, we’ve got a ton of different personalities, and when you watch those guys interact with each other, be it on the field, in the training room, in the locker room, at lunch, you really don’t see any divisiveness. … The guys we signed, when you talk about the veteran guys, (cornerback) Champ (Bailey), (tackle Ryan) Clady, (safety) Mike Adams, Peyton -- on both sides of the ball, guys see what it takes to win, and the work ethic and the leadership. So really, you sit back and you observe, and we all feel very good about the chemistry we have downstairs.”

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