Outside linebacker Aaron Patrick is making a name for himself on special teams in Denver after signing with the Broncos in September from the Jaguars' practice squad. Patrick has impressed on special teams, but he has his sights set on defense in the future.
Patrick, who attended Eastern Kentucky, entered the league as an undrafted free agent. But Patrick has remained confident that he could show his potential if he was just given the opportunity, as he told The Denver Post's Kyle Newman.
"I knew I had something I needed to show," Patrick said. "With my time at Eastern Kentucky, between being a first-team All-American and the (Ohio Valley Conference) Defensive Player of the Year, I knew what I was capable of….I knew what I could do and I was ready for the opportunity to show it in the pros, regardless of what level I came from."
Patrick's confidence and hard work have earned him an expanded role on special teams, which could lead to a bigger role on the defense in the future.
Patrick's performance has impressed the Broncos, including General Manager George Paton, who praised Patrick's abilities on the field.
"If you watch [Patrick] on special teams, this kid, he's a freak," Paton said. "He can run and he's learning how to play [outside linebacker in our scheme]."
Patrick's contributions on special teams have also impressed Special Teams Coordinator Tom McMahon.
"McMahon called Patrick 'a mismatch in everything that we do' on special teams," Newman wrote. "Patrick has emerged as one of the more physical and aware players on the punt/field goal coverage, punt return, kickoff and kick return units."
McMahon praised Patrick's potential on the field and his dedication in the meeting rooms.
"He's got great speed, great size, great power," McMahon said. "We've got to use him. He's really great in the classroom. He loves football. He's first class in everything he does, but the best thing is when you get out on the rectangle, he's got some intangibles that you can't teach, and he uses them."
Below the Fold
Rookie OLB Jonathon Cooper has had an explosive start to his first season on in the NFL. The seventh-round draft pick has racked up 20 tackles, two sacks and five QB hits through the first 10 games, and is making a name for himself in Denver.
According to Pro Football Focus, Cooper is at the top of the rookie class of edge defenders in several categories.
The Broncos rookie has earned a 70.2 PFF grade (third highest among rookie edge defenders), a 73.3 run defense grade (second among rookie edge defenders) and 15 pressures (sixth among rookie edge defenders).
If Cooper continues to impress during the remainder of his rookie season, he can solidify himself not just as a steal in the draft, but a contributor for Denver's defense going forward.