Charles Robinson, a senior NFL reporter for Yahoo Sports, stopped by Broncos training camp on Saturday to get a look at this year's team. After practice, we caught up with Robinson about General Manager George Paton, Robinson's thoughts on this Denver team and which players will have his attention this fall.
Aric DiLalla: You got the chance to speak with George Paton before practice. What were your impressions of that hire and how he's handled his first offseason?
Charles Robinson: "I knew George long before I ever met George, because so many people across the league always had good things to say about him — like, other personnel people, coaches who interacted with him. … I mean, I literally remember probably seven years ago hearing, 'Hey, this guy — get to know this guy. He's on the general manager track, ridiculously smart guy, can work with everybody in your building.' It's a great hire because he's one of those guys who, like [Indianapolis'] Chris Ballard, was very patient in his process before he took the job he knew was right. Same thing with George. He took his time, he picked a team that he felt was right for him, and I know there were other opportunities — I think he could have had that Cleveland job, very easily could have had that San Francisco job.
"To me, it's a great hire and you see it reflected in how people communicate with him and his demeanor. And he's also been on the road, he's steeped in evaluation first, which I think is really important for the general manager position, in my personal opinion. He's worked with a lot of different personalities over the years. You know, he spent time with [Nick] Saban [in Miami]. I think if you can go through hashing it out with Nick Saban for years, you can probably work with pretty much everybody. Great hire. Great hire, and I think given the time to do what he's got to do, I think they're going to get it right."
AD: As Vic Fangio heads into his third season as head coach, what are you expectations for the defense with the pieces they have?
CR: "There's no question the defense is ahead of the offense. The secondary, on paper, is an exquisite unit. It really is, and especially if you get something out of [Pat] Surtain [II]. I think he's going to be even better than people thought he was going to be, taking him ninth. The secondary, as long as it's healthy, they might have the best safety tandem in the league. The front end of the defense, we'll see how the pressure works. You obviously have got to have some pressure. ... You have to have all the pieces sorted out at linebacker. But one day, just looking at the team, you're like, 'OK, I see a load of talent on the defense, and then I see offensively there's a lot of work in progress.'
"You've got young guys who have got to take another step. It's good to see [Jerry] Jeudy's not dropping passes. He's had a really good camp so far. Noah Fant looks like, I mean just physically, the first time I saw him, he looked different to me. So that's another guy I'd expect to take another jump. Thirty-three [Javonte Williams], the kid you took out of North Carolina, I like him a lot. I think he's going to be a really good rotational contributor right away. Quarterback, I think you're going to spend probably the whole preseason trying to figure that out, and then it'll probably take itself into the regular season, where you're going to see the schedule's a little soft at the start. Whoever's the starter's going to have the benefit of that. I expect them to be decisive with the quarterback position beyond August and September. I think if somebody's struggling in October and November, they're going to sit there and go, 'Look, if we've got to make a change, we'll make it.' That's just something that's going to have to be worked out through the remainder of the season. We'll see how it shakes out. Honestly, I came in and I was like, '[Teddy] Bridgewater's going to be the starter, for sure.' You watch him [on Saturday], a little bit of struggle, and you're like, 'OK, that's going [to happen].' Drew [Lock]'s going to have his opportunities to impress himself and make it a close battle and win the job. And Drew's [got] the physical end of it, the splash stuff. And you can see it. He uncorked one today … it was like a crossing route, and the ball he threw, I was like, 'OK, that's it.' That's what you see and like, it raises your eyebrows and you're like, 'That's why this kid is going to continue to have a chance. If he can just find consistency, they'll be great.' But offensively, they've got their work cut out for them, there's no doubt about it. But there's a lot of youth at the right spots, offensively.
AD: If you could pick one player on either side of the ball that you're most excited to watch this season, who would you select?
CR: "Honestly, I would say Jeudy, because I think Jeudy's got the ability to be a top-three receiver in the league. I think he's like that talented. … If he's catching everything that's thrown in his direction, the guy's going to be a monster. He's going to be an absolute monster. To me, that's one of those guys where I'm looking for that next big leap. I think he's got the ability to make the leap, and it's good that he's off to a good start. That's one of the first questions [I had] when I had the chance to talk to somebody here. I was like, 'What does Jeudy look like?' And he was like, 'He's caught everything.' I'm like, 'OK, that's great. That's what you want to see.' I definitely am excited about him.
"And then I would say maybe a close second would probably be Surtain. I think a lot of him, and I think it was a steal. Even taking him at nine was still a steal. I think he's going to end up — to me, I'm like, 'Just wait.' Redrafts in three or four years, they're going to look at this draft and he'll probably be a top-three pick. I think that much of him. ... And not only that, I like that they're teaching him nickel, dime, corner. He's learning multiple different positions right now, which is good. He's got the mentality where he's a very even kind of personality."