ENGLEWOOD, Colo.—Wednesday, Denver Broncos safety T.J. Ward spoke to media at Dove Valley, sporting a hat with the retro team logo and giving his thoughts on a litany of subjects. Among them were what he thinks of new Head Coach Gary Kubiak and fellow safety David Bruton's chances to break the starting lineup.
First of all, Ward, a five-year veteran out of Oregon entering his second season with the Broncos, was asked on the importance he attaches to being involved in the Denver community.
“It's very important to me,” he said. "As soon as I got here, I felt like I was welcomed with open arms and that I was part of the community. Every community I feel a part of, I'm just trying to give back and make myself felt within it.”
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Ward talked about the prospect of blitzing more in defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ aggressive brand of 3-4 defense. With 5.5 career sacks, including two last season, Ward has a flare for getting after the quarterback.
“That was definitely something that was brought up as soon as he got here,” he said today. “I think you'll see a lot more of that this year.”
Although the Broncos defense was statistically a top-5 unit in 2014, they seemed to lack that killer, opportunistic instinct, which creates turnovers and changes the game. Ward was asked if he expects to play a more diverse role in 2015 than he did last season under Jack Del Rio, the new head coach of the Oakland Raiders.
“I think it's going to be similar to last year – only time will tell. Right now, we're trying to start with the basics,” he said. “We're just now getting into the blitz installs and sub packages. It's definitely more of a variety of what I'm going to be allowed to do, so I'm excited about that.”
With the schedule release occurring Tuesday, it was determined the Broncos will play Ward's old team on the road in Week 6, the Cleveland Browns, on October 18th. Today, Ward talked about the prospect of facing his old teammates.
“I haven't reached out to anyone there,” he said. “I don't want to talk to anybody right now. I kind of just want to show up and play.”
After playing more than 900 defensive snaps as a rookie, cornerback Bradley Roby enters his second season poised to impact the defense on a higher level. Ward spoke to the rumors of the talented former first rounder possibly moving to free safety and whether he has the ability to pull it off.
“Coach says he's going to put the six best DB's on the field. Bradley, with his ability, his smarts and his competitiveness, he's definitely one of those players that is definitely capable of doing that.”
Much has been made of Gary Kubiak and the new coaching staff and both sides of the ball having to learn a new system. With a roster seemingly on the brink of making it to the top of the NFL mountain, some fans can’t help but feel like John Elway turned the ship around mid-stream and wonder what kind of effect it’ll have on the Broncos in 2015—good or ill.
“It's going very well right now,” Ward said. “I think the installs, the direction that they want to go with the team and how they're going about it right now is great for us.”
He then gave his specific thoughts on Kubiak. “He's a pro. He comes in, doesn't say too much, works hard and is in the playbook. He seems like a smart guy. All of this is going to take time. Everyone knows it doesn't mean anything until we get out there on the field.”
Ward was later asked about how he is trying to improve the secondary, which boasts three Pro Bowlers, including himself. He referred to last season in his answer.
“We had a talented secondary, but it's all about gelling together,” he said. “It was our first year playing together. We're only going to be better. We're going to be better with time.”
That’s a scary notion for NFL offensive coordinators tasked with figuring out how to scheme against such a talented and accomplished secondary. Ward also talked about how he thinks he'll fit into the new defense in sub-packages.
“Last year it was a different front for me,” said the two-time Pro Bowler. “Now it's going to be more of a five-man front, compared to a four-man front where I'm the fifth guy last year. Now I'll be the sixth guy. I think you'll see a lot more running and hitting from me compared to shedding guards.”
Ultimately, that’s what Ward was brought to Denver to effectuate—make plays, not shed blocks. Finally, in closing, Ward talked about whether he likes safety David Bruton’s chances of starting at free safety. His answer was interesting.
“When I was out,” said Ward, “he had a good game against Oakland and then in the sub-packages he came in and tackled well, was physical and aggressive. I know the coaches haven't and I haven't penciled in anyone next to me. I guarantee myself a spot and I'm working as hard as I can to be the best player I can. We've got a bunch of guys that can fill that spot and that's a great thing about it.”
With all of this said, Ward, who has seven career interceptions and five forced fumbles, to go along with his sack numbers, deserves a lot of credit. Fans appreciate his spirit as a true competitor and one who realizes the value of working for what he gets.
It is this attitude, which was echoed by fellow defensive back Chris Harris, Jr. on Tuesday, that can be the impetus of pushing the Broncos toward championship glory. Perhaps the Broncos can hoist the Lombardi trophy next February from Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, CA, if this attitude continues to permeate throughout the entire team.
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