Broncos Update Insider - 12/10

what Eric Studesville, the longtime running backs coach in the NFL, will bring to the table Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals is anybody's guess right now.

Eric Studesville will be enthusiastic. His first two press conferences have demonstrated that.

But what else the longtime running backs coach in the NFL will bring to the table Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals is anybody's guess right now.

He's promised small adjustments, and some different things in the day-to-day operations that hopefully pay dividends. Both are somewhat vague notions.

He wants the players to be excited to walk into the facility, which is either a reflection of a 3-9 record or an indictment of playing under predecessor Josh McDaniels.

"Our expectation will be excellence," Studesville said. "Our expectation will be effort."

One change with large-scale ramifications is giving play-calling responsibilities to offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.

"That's the best situation for our offense, with continuity for the quarterback and what we're doing going forward," the interim coach said.

McDaniels held that role previously, and whether McCoy sticks to the now ex-coach's primary MO or diverges will be seen at University of Phoenix Stadium.

"I don't think our system's going to change a whole lot," quarterback Kyle Orton said. "But I'm sure the way Mike calls the game, the flow he gets into, what he wants to do in terms of situations, I'm sure that changes a little bit."

Studesville already has named Orton the starter at quarterback. He also essentially parroted McDaniels' frequent lines regarding Tim Tebow, saying the plan is to play him "where we feel like he gives us the best chance to be successful ... whatever that is."

One tweak that may be expected is more of a commitment to the running game. Knowshon Moreno has looked good for the last month, running hard and useful as an outlet receiver. Denver's pass-run ratio is 64.4-35.6 percent.

With Studesville coming over from running game coordinator, it wouldn't be surprising to see an uptick in Moreno's carries and a stronger dedication to the run game generally.

"I think we'll do what works," running back Correll Buckhalter said. "If we have success on a play, then we'll run that play again. But having a running backs coach as an interim head coach I do feel like we might run the ball more. But we have a good passing game too here. So it's going to open a lot of things for us."

The staff hasn't changed defensively, so it remains to be seen whether there's any change in mindset as far as an attacking style with a raw Cardinals quarterback set to hit center stage for the first time.

"That's one thing coach talked about in meetings is keeping things familiar," outside linebacker Jason Hunter said. "We have four weeks left, and a lot of things we have been doing we're going to keep doing. It's just getting better off them. That's all we have to do. Get better at the things we're good at and have to improve upon."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Many young players hit the dreaded rookie wall.

Cornerback Perrish Cox may have finally scaled it in last week's loss to Kansas City -- especially mentally.

With Champ Bailey assigned to take away Dwayne Bowe, Cox, as usual, was going to be a frequent target. But instead of feeling nervous, Cox was actually unburdened by the assignment, finally confident he knew the scheme and could react without thought or constant advice and input from others.

His instincts simply took over.

"I kind of get tired of everybody talking to me about doing this and that. Why can't I just do it myself?" he asked. "And my goal was hey, 'I'm not going to give up anything and I'm going to have my best games of the season from here on out.' I know what's coming. I know what's going on. It's time to just play like it."

Cox had a career-best eight unassisted tackles vs. the Chiefs. His role could change slightly with Andre Goodman expected back from a lingering thigh/hip issue vs. Arizona. That could slide Cox into the nickel, or if Denver opts to ease Goodman in, mean staying in his right cornerback spot for lengthy stretches.

"It's kind of hard not to listen and take in as much as you can. But sometimes it can be overwhelming when you're trying to learn your way," Bailey said of Cox potentially turning the corner. "But he's coming along and handling those challenges. I'm proud of him."

But Bailey as a wily veteran warned Cox of getting too confident that things will go smoothly from here on out, clear-headed mindset or not.

"One thing about being a rookie, he can always regress and go back to what you used to do," Bailey said with a laugh.

--OLB Robert Ayers had great expectations after failing to make a huge impact as a No. 1 pick in 2009.

But his sophomore season has had some trials and tribulations, too. The loss of Elvis Dumervil in camp impacted Ayers, based on the attention Dumervil would have commanded, thus freeing up Ayers to some degree.

Even so, Ayers was off to a solid start with 18 tackles and 1.5 sacks before hurting his foot in the Oct. 10 Baltimore game.

It cost him five games, and in the two weeks since, Ayers has played a rotational role then didn't start last week.

"The past two games have been kind of iffy for me, after being out six, seven weeks," he admitted. "This week I want to get things going back positive the way they were before I got hurt."

Overall, Ayers has called it "a tough season," due to off-the-field issues and family matters in addition to his struggles to stay healthy. But his goal is to establish himself as a dominant player over the final month.

"I feel like I got better this year. I didn't hit a lot of the goals I wanted to, or do a lot of the things I would have liked. I definitely didn't account for getting hurt," he said.

"But it's part of the business. And I still have time to improve. And whoever the coaching staff comes in next year hopefully will look at me as a guy with a lot of potential that can play and a player you can put in critical situations and can be a playmaker on the team."

BY THE NUMBERS: 3 -- Previous interim coaches before Eric Studesville's hiring Monday. Mac Speedie went 2-7-1 in 1964 and actually earned the full-time gig the next year. Ray Malavasi was 4-8 in 1966. Jerry Smith was 2-3 in 1971. McDaniels' 28-game run is the shortest ever for a full-time Denver coach in team history.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "With the stuff that started in London, I think from then on in to this point, everything they were saying about Josh was negative. And it hangs a black cloud over the team. It's unfortunate for coach McDaniels because I thought he was a good coach. But now we have to move on." -- RB Correll Buckhalter, on life at Dove Valley since the videotaping scandal broke in late November.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Broncos have had to use a hodge-podge in the secondary the last couple weeks due to injuries, but the return of both S Darcel McBath and CB Andre Goodman should help settle the rotation. Goodman may not start, since he's not been able to get through a full game unscathed since Week 2.

Perrish Cox, coming off what may be his best pro game, likely will start opposite Champ Bailey and in nickel situations slide over to the slot, allowing Goodman to play his usual right cornerback role. That would knock Syd'Quan Thompson out of the rotation in all likelihood.

In Denver's heavy dime package, McBath should slide into the three-safety personnel along with Nate Jones and Renaldo Hill.

Denver signed tight end Daniel Coats, late of Cincinnati, this week and depending on whether he can get up to speed quickly, he may not inherit Dan Gronkowski's backup role to Daniel Graham. But Coats could possibly slide into the Broncos' three-tight end sets, which have, at times, allowed for maximum protection and added bulk to the running game.

PLAYER NOTES

--RB Jeremiah Johnson, a former Oregon star, was added to Denver's practice squad. Johnson has spent time with Houston, Carolina and Washington previously. It gives the team a chance to evaluate him at a position that figures to be thin heading into the offseason.

--NT Jamal Williams was absent from Wednesday's practice but occasionally gets off time to keep him fresh throughout the season.

--OG Russ Hochstein was a no-show at Wednesday's workout for undisclosed reasons.

--CB Champ Bailey shadowed Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe last Sunday and held the NFL's hottest target without a catch. It would not be surprising to see Denver employ a similar approach with Bailey on Larry Fitzgerald. Bailey had two interceptions and four pass breakups in the last Arizona game in 2006, including one pick off a quick slant to Fitzgerald.

--RB Knowshon Moreno now has scored 16 TDs since breaking into the league as a first-round pick last season. Only Houston's Arian Foster has more (18) during that span.





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