Denver Broncos | News

Kaepernick poses versatile challenge for defense

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —**Perhaps the best way to simulate Colin Kaepernick is to just play him in Madden.

Considering the video game-style plays that Kaepernick can make whether through the air or on the ground, it's no surprise that his style and skill set is difficult to recreate in preparation for Sunday's game.

"There's no simulation," DeMarcus Ware said after Thursday's practice. "Sometimes you can maybe put a wide receiver out there and let them run a little bit or put a running back. You can't simulate a guy that can run the ball but also pass the ball and string those plays out. That's what he does best and so you have to play a fundamentally sound game against you or he'll beat you."

Von Miller didn't go quite that far saying it couldn't be done, but he did say it's difficult to do. "He's definitely tough to simulate but you can prepare for every team in the NFL. [He's] a very talented quarterback: can run, can pass, can make all the throws on the field."

Though replicating his talent on the practice field is somewhere between difficult and impossible, the Broncos are definitely familiar with Kaepernick and will be ready for him come Sunday night.

Most recently, the Broncos played Kaepernick and the 49ers during the preseason in August. As Head Coach John Fox said Wednesday, there's not much either team can take from that game since they knew they'd play each other in the regular season when the games affect the win and loss columns.

Going back even further, Peyton Manning has known Kaepernick since he attended the Manning Passing Academy when he was in college. But probably no one on the Broncos knows the 49ers quarterback as well as Virgil Green, who was Kaepernick's roommate their freshman and senior years of college at Nevada.

Though they don't keep close contact like they used to, Green has had a great look at Kaepernick's skills from their time on the same team. However, Green said he doesn't expect anything he knows from their past to come in handy at this stage.

"I can't say if there are too many secrets," Green said. "Kaep is a guy—he's very good at adjusting. He's never going to get too down. He's always going to try to find a way to win. You've got to play him tough, make things uncomfortable for him."

"He's one of the hardest working athletes I've ever seen. He puts a lot of time and effort into what he does in the offseason and even in the season in the weight room, he's always working hard and giving everything he's got," Green added.

Sure, it's a daunting task, but facing a dual-threat quarterback has pretty much been the norm for the defense so far this season, after playing Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Alex Smith and Geno Smith. Kaepernick is one of the best in the league, so it'll assuredly be a challenge, but the defense knows what they're up against.

"I think it's all about angles. At the end of the day if you don't take the right angle he can beat you," Ware said. "He's one of those quarterbacks, like you said, speed. He can run and he's not one of those guys that's going to slide. He's going to get that extra yardage. You have to make sure that just because it's a passing down, it's also a running down too. You have to be aware of where he is.[...] Everybody has to be on their P's and Q's and make sure their responsibility is always keen because that's when they make big plays: One guy didn't get the quarterback or somebody has a blown coverage and they make these big plays and these big chunk yards."

Aqib Talib agreed, saying that the secondary has to give the defensive line and linebacking corps the trust to do their jobs, whether that's containment or rushing the quarterback.

"It definitely makes us pay a lot of attention to plastering our receivers so we've got to have good eyes against a quarterback like that and the D-line has got to do a good job of keeping him in the pocket," Talib said. "As a whole, man, they're one of the deeper receiving corps in the league. Physical guys, great competitors."

Clearly a big key will be on the pass rush, who has the tough task of disrupting Kaepernick's timing in the pocket without giving him the lane to find big gains with his legs.

"You have to be a smart rusher. It's all about cage rushing," Ware said. "You can sort of push the pocket, but you always have to have good pocket presence. But when you're rushing the passer you have to know where he is and how far he can run, at the end of the day, and know your own abilities. Kaepernick, he's one of those guys, at the end of the day, if you let the B-gap wide open he can string you for 20 yards and that's what is going to keep the ball going. There are a lot of plays where it should be some type of passing play and he'll run the ball so everybody has to make sure they're doing their responsibility. It's really just looking at it that way and playing a fundamentally sound game."

Even without a Kaepernick to face in practice, the Broncos know what they're up against and how they must play him.

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