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Mason's Mailbag: The intensity of practice, where Kenny Anunike stands, and more

As always, you can tweet questions to me with the hashtag #AskMase, use the submission form or scroll to the bottom of this page.

Since Gary Kubiak and staff have arrived, it seems like Denver sports writers are repeatedly implying that the new coaching staff is better at coaching than Fox and his staff. Am I reading in something that is not there or is there a quality to the Kubiak coaching team that warrants this thinking?
-- Rick T

Two qualities: energy and intensity.

During the first OTA, you could hear the voices of two coaches in particular from 60 yards away: Linebackers Coach Reggie Herring and Defensive Line Coach Bill Kollar. Both intensely exhorting their players. Special Teams Coordinator Joe DeCamillis also has a vocal, intense style and does well getting his point across, which was evident during the voluntary veteran minicamp of late April, when players running his drills sprinted from station to station to open the first practice, instantly sending a message of the renewed emphasis on special teams this year.

Many players have spoken of their teaching styles, and how they get results, with Kollar's drawing the most attention.

"Bill is loud but he's got a great knack for getting on people, getting them to go harder, but for them to like him," said Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips. "Normally a guy that's as loud as he is, that hollers at you, you think, 'Wow.' They know it's in their best interest when he gets on them. Now, he gets on them, and they know he means it, but he's got a great knack for that, and that's coaching. Everybody coaches different ways, and I think his style is really good for defensive linemen. It fits well with those guys. All the guys he's coached, they've all really gotten better."

The intensity goes all the way to the top. Kubiak isn't as vocal in practice as some of his assistants, but he's known among players for the speeches he gives to the team in meetings. As former Broncos and Texans tight end Joel Dreessen said in January:

"In Saturday night meetings, everybody was on the edge of their seat waiting for [Kubiak] to talk. Everyone in the room has chills under their arms -- I'm talking about coaches and players alike. He gave very inspirational talks. But it's not a whole lot of rah-rah stuff. It's genuine confidence-building talks that he'd give us. Basically we'd all leave those team meetings on Saturday night ready to run through a wall for the guy."

At the first OTA on May 27, Kubiak paused practice midway through to speak to the team. The intensity picked up immediately thereafter.

And what's going on here is not a carbon copy of what Kubiak did in Houston. He incorporated ideas learned from his year with the Baltimore Ravens, such as additional days to let veterans rest while giving young players more first-team looks, which has the chain-reaction effect of giving players at all depth-chart levels more snaps. That has helped Baltimore become one of the league's best at on-field player development; they trust the "next-man-up" pipeline to deliver quality. The Ravens rarely overpay to retain players; they add veterans judiciously. They draft well, but that is due almost as much to the practice work they give their young players as they develop as the draft-weekend selections themselves. If the Broncos can have the same kind of success as the Ravens in this area, you'll have a club that wins "from now on," in the parlance of John Elway.

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I was wondering about Kenny Anunike.... Where has he been working during the early stages of OTA's? Is he projecting as an outside linebacker or as a defense end?**
-- Tony Woodyerd

So far in OTAs, Anunike is working as a defensive end, where he is the Broncos' lightest player up front. That leads to some challenges, but also an opportunity, because he can bring some speed and quickness to the 5-technique spot and create a mismatch, especially with the attention the outside linebackers will receive from the tackles. Anunike could blow past a guard in a pass rush situation and prove disruptive -- and he's made some plays in that manner during the two OTAs we've watched. As defensive end Malik Jackson told media Thursday:

"Kenny's doing well. He's a small guy trying to get in there and learn his technique because he didn't play a three or a four next year. He's coming along real nice. When you have Coach Kollar, you've got to learn fast. He'll let you know he's cutting you. It's one of those things that he knows what he has to do; he knows what he has to do and he knows he either gets it done or he's out of here.

"I think with that said, he's just working hard and coming along very well. Once we get those pads on we'll be able to tell a lot better, but right now he looks good out there in jerseys and helmets."

Jackson's comment about wearing pads is one you must note. OTAs, with no pads, favor players who have speed over power, so they will be advantageous to Anunike. How will he fare when he's on the inside, taking on guards and getting hit every play? That will determine whether he can build off the progress he made as a 4-3 defensive end last summer before going to injured reserve with an elbow injury.

Are they not going to give Kayvon Webster any free safety looks?
-- Andreas Chan

That doesn't appear to be on the docket. I've been asked about this before, and I don't know where the notion arose. With the signing of Darian Stewart, the shift of Omar Bolden from cornerback and the work Bradley Roby is expected to receive in some packages, the Broncos appear to have all potential permutations at safety covered. Besides, you need four cornerbacks, given that nickel is in effect a base defense and the chances of the top three cornerbacks playing all 16 games are slim to none. Webster needs the cornerback snaps as he continues to develop.

#AskMase; @Broncos; Will the Broncos ever wear a throwback that has their old colors of light blue and orange? I would love to see that again! — Levi Stone (@levistone34) June 1, 2015

Only if the ability to put a "skin" on a helmet that doesn't peel off allows the Broncos to accurately replicate their old uniforms. Per the rule passed in 2013, teams must wear the same helmets all season long; that's why the only throwbacks you see are with teams whose old helmet color is the same as their current one, e.g. Buffalo and Miami, among others. All they have to do is peel off their current logos, slap old logo stickers on, and -- voila! -- you have an accurate throwback helmet to go with the uniform.

A throwback uniform isn't worth doing if it can't be done right, so you're not going to do a Broncos 1960-96 retro kit with the current navy blue helmets.

I don't know if Broncos fandom was ever specifically cited by the McConnell family on Mork & Mindy, but there was the famous episode with scenes shot at the Nov. 11, 1979 Broncos-Patriots game in which Mork became a member of the Pony Express, the Broncos' cheerleading squad at the time. Although I've never watched the ABC sitcom Last Man Standing (when I do have time to watch TV nowadays, it's almost exclusively sports), I know Tim Allen's character is a Broncos fan, and the show is set in the Denver area.

If anyone else knows of sitcoms with Broncos fans, please drop me a line through the form at the bottom of the page or Tweet at me.

@MaseDenver; can you please update us on the kicking, punting, and FG camp battles. #askmase; Thanks Drew — BRKLYN (@BRKLYN48) June 5, 2015

At this point, we've only see two OTAs and the kickers have done most of their work on a field away from the rest of the team, so it's too early to get a gauge on where the special-teams competitions stand. Training camp and preseason will give us a much better idea.

The owl says, "Three," and that's good enough for me.


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The analysis, opinion and speculation in this story represents that of the author, gathered through research and reporting, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Denver Broncos organization.

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