ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — When linebacker Kenny Young arrived in Denver in late October, he had understandable reservations.
A day before the trade, he and the Rams had pieced together a win over the Lions to move to 6-1 on the season. The Broncos, meanwhile, had just suffered their fourth straight loss to drop to 3-4.
As he met the Denver press for the first time, he made no promises about how quickly he could contribute or how he'd fit into the defense.
"I'm just learning and soaking [things] up," Young said on Oct. 27. "I think that's a big part about this week … just soaking up so much. It's tough when you come off of a trade because it's like, 'What the heck?' It's a part of being a pro, a part of changing and a part of adapting [because] this game is always changing. Things always happen suddenly, so I think I'll be fine. I've played enough ball. I'm pretty comfortable in my preparation and my process to get me going, but like I said, I'm only focused on today."
Just two weeks later, Young has been every bit the impact player he was for the Rams — and he's helped the Broncos fill a hole at linebacker that has in turn revitalized the Denver defense.
"I feel pretty good," Young said Thursday. "Things are getting more settled. [Those] first four days [were] a wreck shop, but I feel good now. Things are starting to settle down. Things are becoming more familiar. We're on a roll right now, and [we're] just trying to continue to stack these beautiful wins that are so hard to get day in and day out."
In two games with the Broncos, Young has tallied seven tackles and provided a jolt of energy in the middle of the Broncos' defense. Since Young and Baron Browning took over as the team's primary inside 'backers in Week 8, the Broncos have been far more effective against the run. In Week 7, the Broncos allowed a season-high 182 rushing yards on 5.5 yards per carry. Over the last two games, the Broncos have allowed an average of just 95rushing yards and 4.75yards per carry.
Young was able to carry over some knowledge he had from playing in former Broncos Outside Linebackers Coach and former Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley's system in 2020, and he said he appreciates the way Head Coach Vic Fangio puts players in position to make plays.
"He's a very brilliant coach," Young said of Fangio. "He's very smart. He thinks [outside of] the box and I think one of the things I respect most about him is that he puts his players where they're best on matchups, whether it be within scheme [or otherwise]. That's one thing you really, really don't take for granted as a player because in a lot of situations, guys [will] be out of place if it doesn't jell well. He's been helping us a lot and helping me a lot tremendously [by] just allowing me honestly [to] go play. I think he has this trust. I'm just excited that I came here, and I was able to help the team very, very early. [I'm going to] continue to learn, learn from him, and just continue to build this thing with my guys."
And while Young's arrival in Denver may have been abrupt, he may not be so quick to leave. The impending free agent said Thursday he could imagine being in Denver long term.
"I actually do, man," Young said. "After the first full week, I said, 'Man, Colorado is really not that bad of a place. I really could see myself here.' I'm from the countryside of Louisiana, so being out in LA for six years, this is way calmer. [There's] still a lot of nature. I definitely do see myself here long term. It's a special place to be — great coaches, great players. Just the atmosphere for a linebacker and for a defensive player, this is one of the places you for sure want to be."
PUTTING 'THE BELLY' AWAY
Rookie third-round pick Quinn Meinerz garnered social media acclaim this offseason for his tendency to hitch his shirt up and reveal his stomach while practicing.
"The Belly" took on a life of its own, but Meinerz said Thursday that he's retired that persona, at least for now.
"I'm a rookie, first of all," Meinerz said. "Second of all, I'm a professional now. I'm not going out looking for attention or anything like that. I want to lay low, earn my stripes, earn my place in the National Football League and earn myself a spot here with the Denver Broncos in the future."
The rookie has plenty else to focus on, as he's expected to start at right guard in place of the injured Graham Glasgow.
"As a rookie, I've been trying to take pieces of other guys' game in the room and how they prepare for a week," Meinerz said. "[After] having already prepared for a week to start, I've found some things that work, and found some things didn't work. I'm going to use that knowledge to get ready for this week."
Meinerz cleared the way for a long Javonte Williams run against the Cowboys, and he'll aim to deliver some more punishing blocks against Philadelphia.
"That's what you're trying to do every single play," Meinerz said. "When you have those run calls, you're trying to impose your will on another person. When you have those pancake [blocks], it definitely is like a huge rush of excitement and [says], 'Hey, let's keep running the ball.' That's kind of the mindset when going after those."
'A ONE-TWO PUNCH'
When the Broncos traded up to draft Javonte Williams in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft, veteran Melvin Gordon III could have chosen to give Williams the cold shoulder.
In fact, Williams almost expected it.
Instead, Gordon has served as a resource for the newly named Rookie of the Week, and it's benefited the Broncos' run game as a whole.
"Mel is really cool," Williams said. "Coming into the NFL and the way people described it, I thought he was going to be kind of standoffish like, 'You're not going to break into my carries or anything like that.' He's the complete opposite. Anything I mess up on, he's trying to coach me up right then and there. He's trying to show me little things that he did when he was a rookie that helped him be more comfortable with the game. Just having a one-two punch — I feel like it's really helping us and keeping us safe. We're staying healthy."
The Broncos rank 13th in rushing offense, and both Gordon (477 yards) and Williams (466 yards) rank in the top 18 in rushing. Denver is the only team with two players in the top 20.