Denver Broncos | News

Mason's Mailbag: Montee Ball on the rise

It's just another week, right? Which makes this just another mailbag?

As usual, if you want to submit a question for next week, you can use the login form or via @MaseDenver on Twitter, with the #AskMase hashtag.

Both have been a bit lost in the shuffle in recent weeks. Part of that is the nature of their responsibilities against mobile quarterbacks; Wolfe and Williams are as responsible for creating space for linebackers and edge rushers like DeMarcus Ware to make plays as they are for collapsing the pocket on their own. But some of that is a result of the myriad combinations the Broncos are using, trying to find the right fit. Denver has used 69 different defensive personnel groupings through two games, the third-most in the league. Von Miller's recover from a torn anterior cruciate ligament has limited his work, reducing the number of opportunities for Ware and Miller to draw attention on the edge.

First, I'm going to assume "wigwams" is simply auto-correct gone mad.

Second, I think Ball is doing all right, given that he missed two weeks of training camp and this offensive line combination has played just two full games together. He hit the holes well Sunday, much better than he did against Indianapolis, and did well reading the flow of the play and his blocks. If he has more games like Week 2's -- when he averaged 8.9 yards every time he touched the football -- he'll be fine.

He spoke Thursday of needing to make sure he gains three or four yards on first down. One problem in recent weeks was how many times he was met in the backfield and had to struggle just to minimize the damage; with better play up front, and perhaps more use of Virgil Green as an H-back or fullback, this might go better Sunday.

I think you'll see elements added to the defense in the next few games; whether that is about strictly "attack" or to disguising coverages is another guess. Given Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio's history over the years, expect a mixture of both, aided by the return of Danny Trevathan from his leg fracture.

Given the aggression of the defense in the preseason -- with T.J. Ward creeping forward as a pass rusher, among other tactics -- and Trevathan's expected return either Sunday or in the coming weeks, I expect you'll see more looks and more aggression.

He could bring something, but when are you going to get him out there? Even without Wes Welker on the 53-man roster in Week 1, Latimer did not see a snap. And remember, his next offensive snap in the regular season will be his first. At some point, you've got to get your first work, but it would be unusual timing for that to happen against Seattle's ferocious secondary.

The other issue with Latimer -- and the wide receivers -- is that two other backup receivers have primary roles on special teams: Andre Caldwell on kickoff returns, and Isaiah Burse on punt returns. That's where your depth at wide receiver resides. The limitations of a 46-man roster make it unlikely that you'll dress six wide receivers.

Latimer is an outstanding blocking receiver, that's true, but the other factors in game-day roster construction make it difficult for him to snag a spot unless he gets some work in one of the return disciplines.

A team could be 16-0 and some people would complain. It's the nature of fandom in any sport, and it was best summarized by the late college basketball coach Jim Valvano.

Valvano recalled visiting a barber shop after becoming the basketball coach at North Carolina State University in 1980. Valvano's predecessor, Norm Sloan, coached State to a national championship in 1973-74 and led them to a 266-127 record over 14 years in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the nation's toughest college basketball circuit that, at the time, featured one of the best coaches in American sports history, Dean Smith, working 28 miles away at the University of North Carolina.

"I hope you do better than that last guy," the barber said as he snipped the new coach's locks.

The momentarily incredulous Valvano couldn't stay silent. He noted Sloan's accomplishments, including going 57-1 over a two-season span -- and going undefeated in 1972-73, a perfect 27-0. (The plaid blazer Sloan favored couldn't have hurt, either.) You couldn't do better than that, right?

"Yeah," replied the barber, "but just think what Dean Smith would've been able to do with that team."

It's human nature. And while there are justified reasons for concern about the Broncos after two games -- penalties, first-down run production and third-down defense in particular -- know that even if the 2014 Broncos emerge as the greatest team in Broncos history, and some will say it's not good enough.

The basics are not altogether different. The locker room is still open 45 minutes four days a week. Some players are more willing to talk than others. A 53-man roster -- with 22 starters -- ensures that you're going to be able to find some "go-to guys" who provide candor and thought in reply almost any question.

But the types of reporters around a team has changed. In some markets, the explosion has come from websites. That has happened to some degree here, but in this market, radio has mushroomed. Most reporters, myself included have side radio deals, or radio arrangements as part of their contracts. But the sheer volume of programs -- and hosts for them -- means that at any given training-camp practice, the number of radio people might outnumber the combined tally of writers, TV reporters and photojournalists.

There's more pressure for speed than there was 10 years ago. We were already out of the shallow end of the Internet pool, but up-to-the-second updates were not necessary; you could still take your time -- although not as much as a decade earlier -- to get the story right, to get the video edited. Now, you're racing to be first on Twitter, first with a full story on the site. Sometimes quality gets sacrificed in the need for speed.

Covering an NFL club for a team site is different, as well. Take road games, for instance, where the dot-com traveling party was three -- a 50 percent increase over the previous year. For the preseason opener this season, we had nine staffers, produced a live pre-game show and live coverage of the post-game press conferences. The live press-conference video hosted on this site dates back to 2002, but it's more reliable now, and more portable; in those days, we didn't have the equipment to do a live broadcast when then-coach Mike Shanahan talked on the field after practice.

I'm surprised at how much the essence of the task has not changed: try to ask good questions, research your topic well, provide some information or data that no one else has, and learn how to dodge the metaphorical land mines. Because of that, I think covering the Broncos will be similar in 10 years for those on the beat. But how can the content delivery get faster than it already is? And what is next in how content is distributed and consumed? These will define how the job continues to evolve. If I'm fortunate enough to still be chronicling the NFL 10 years from now, I'm sure there will be changes I have yet to conceive.

Related Content

Advertising