ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Clancy Barone knows tight ends.
Now in his 26th season coaching, Barone spent 17 years working at the collegiate level before beginning his NFL coaching career with the Falcons in 2004.
In 2005 and 2006, he helped Atlanta's Alge Crumpler make consecutive Pro Bowls, and he followed that up with San Diego during the 2007 and 2008 campaigns, tutoring Antonio Gates as the Charger made back-to-back Pro Bowls as well.
In his fourth season with the Broncos, Barone is excited about the potential of his position group in 2012.
The tight ends coach has two veterans in Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen -- who were added through free agency -- in addition to two 2011 draft picks -- Julius Thomas and Virgil Green -- a second-year player in Cornelius Ingram and a college free agent in Anthony Miller.
DenverBroncos.com asked Barone about that mix of talent, his position group's progress this offseason and how the coaches view expectations entering the 2012 season in a Q&A session.
Players have stressed the importance of having OTAs again this offseason -- is that time just as beneficial for coaches?"That's maybe one of the biggest things – for us to get to know the players. That was the one thing with the shortened offseason last year. Especially for the new staff, they didn't get to know the players. That's the one thing for me, especially because I only had Virgil (Green) for the regular season last year. Julius (Thomas) was injured for the bigger part of last year. He's still not going through OTAs. For these guys to be around the nomenclature, to be around the expectations, the technique, things like that, is huge for us to gain knowledge of them as well as them gaining knowledge of our system."
What will adding Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen mean for the team?
"One thing is I think they've got very good leadership. Dreessen is a guy that I had interest in when he came out of college and I was in Atlanta. I actually knew his brother when I was coaching at University of Wyoming way back in the 90s. So I've kind of known him for a long time, a guy I've always watched on film and kept track of. As a tight ends coach, you always study the tight ends in Indianapolis because Dallas Clark kind of set the standard for tight ends in this league as far as receiving. I watched him a lot to see how he ran routes and what kind of concepts he used and so forth. In doing so, you also obviously have to study Jacob Tamme. He became a younger version of Dallas Clark. So I think those two guys add a brand new dimension to our offense that maybe we didn't have here in years past. I'm extremely thrilled to have guys like that in that room. They can obviously show younger guys this is what we're looking for."
Have you seen signs of Tamme's chemistry with Peyton Manning from their time with the Colts?
"It's like anything else -- when people are together for a long time, they have a certain language. All it takes is, 'Hey, remember in this game two years ago we did it this way?' Or whatever the case might be. Although we're still running our system, it's a copy-cat league, we all know that. The route trees are different from team to team, so a background certainly helps."
You mentioned looking to the Colts as the go-to team for tight ends. Do you hope that's what Denver becomes?
"It'd be nice. It's something you always hope happens. I remember when I was in Atlanta and San Diego, we had a couple Pro Bowlers and we were kind of re-writing the record books. But we'd always get phone calls from other coaches around the league, 'Hey, what are you telling this guy in this situation, how do you get that done?' and so forth. And I was no stranger, either, and one of the guys I'd talk to was (former Colts Tight Ends Coach) Ricky Thomas. I'd see him at the (NFL Scouting) Combine and we'd talk Xs and Os and things like that, always trying to get insight on how you teach certain things and what not."
What do you expect from your second-year tight ends, Thomas and Green?
"One about (Thomas), he's a football junkie. He's listening to every word that's said in every meeting. He's at every drill. He's asking more questions than the guys that are actually doing the drills. He's asking Peyton questions, he's listening to everything that Peyton tells Jacob and Joel. He's right there listening to it and taking notes on that as well. And he's also shown some veteran leadership even though he's only a year into this thing. He's kind of helping tutor the younger guys – Anthony Miller and also (Cornelius) Ingram. So he's kind of taken them under his wing, which also helps him stay involved in it mentally. It's one thing to watch, but to stay truly involved mentally, that's what he's doing now. In terms of Virgil, he is a guy I think I can lean on. He got a lot of playing time last year and his teammates certainly have a level of respect for Virgil."
With no contact, what can tight ends get out of workouts prior to the start of training camp?
"When you had the No. 1 rushing team in the league last year -- and probably 99 percent of those plays were run to the strong side -- tight end was a very big part of that. In various personnel groups, tight ends are going to have a bigger role in the run game and in protections as well. Those require a certain amount of technique as well as knowledge. It's something that maybe you can't get it all without pads on, but you can certainly get it introduced and you can teach some of the right ways and point out some of the flaws. That way when the pads do come on, you're not starting over from square one. You have a certain foundation already laid that you can build upon."
Throughout the offseason, players have talked about high expectations for the team this season. Do coaches look at it that way as well?
"Expectations usually are always high. Every year that I've been in this league, every team in the league wants to hoist up that trophy with all the confetti and everything else that goes along with it. I think everyone has those same expectations. Now, as long as your actions are mirroring what those are -- in other words keep your actions consistent with your goals. It's one thing to have a goal, but you better make sure that your practice habits, your technique, your study habits and everything else kind of mirror that. Otherwise they're false expectations."