Coaches Corner - Mike Shanahan 9/6/06

As the Broncos head into the season opener against the St. Louis Rams, head coach Mike Shanahan took some time to address the media this afternoon. Check out the full transcripts.

Mike Shanahan

On who will be the Broncos' starting running back for their season opener at St. Louis on Sunday
"I just really don't know at this time. I am not trying to be coy. We have got three guys that I feel can run the ball, three guys that can block. We are going to watch how they practice this week and go with our gut feeling."

On if he will inform the running backs who is starting earlier this week
"No. Because if I don't know, then it is hard for me to share it with them. I'd share it with them, but that would not be good with me. You would be calling me a liar. "

On if he enjoys the gamesmanship between himself and other head coaches
"It doesn't really matter. They have got a chance to look at all three guys. They will go with their gut, and we will go with our gut this week. The thing that has happened is that I feel pretty good about all three of them. They have all proven that they can run the football. They have been blocking exceptionally well, all three of them. So I think that's a good sign. We will watch them this week at practice and see how they pick up the game plan and then go with our gut feeling."

On how well he feels that WR Javon Walker will perform on Sunday
"I don't know. We are just going to have to wait and see. I think that Javon (Walker) has a lot of ability. I think that he is complete receiver. What I mean by that is that he has a complete physical game. He has got the strength to go inside, and he is a pretty good blocker in the running game. When you have those attributes, we are hoping that you can improve our offense."

On how healthy WR Walker looks at practice
"I think he is 100 percent. I think that it is hard to play this game if you are not 100 percent, especially when you deal with knees or ankles, or somewhere below the waist. It is pretty tough to be a wide receiver and get the job done. He looks pretty good."

On St. Louis' defense
"It is a different defense for sure. (Rams Defensive Coordinator) Jim (Haslett) has always done a good job coaching the defense. They went from 4.7 yards (per rushing attempt) a year ago, in rushing defense, to 3.4 yards this year. Even though it is preseason, whenever you go from 4.7 to 3.4 in three or four games, that is pretty impressive. I think that their philosophy on offense, to not throw the ball on every down, gives their defense a chance to improve going against their offense because they run the ball more. With the additional four players on defense, you take a look at (Defensive tackle La'Roi) Glover, you take a look at (linebacker Will) Witherspoon, you take a look at (safety Corey) Chavous, you take a look at (cornerback) Tye (Hill), who was obviously a first-round draft choice. You can see the speed, and you can see the difference in the defense."

On what improvements he hopes to see in QB Jake Plummer
"Probably to improve some every year. Jake (Plummer) did a lot of good things last year. What we do in the offseason is we study all of the plays and go through the things that he did right and the things that he did poorly. We go through the constant evaluation in the OTA days and hopefully put him in the same situation this year to improve from a year ago because he is more comfortable in the system and more comfortable in the supporting cast protection."

On how well QB Plummer performed last season
"He played very well. (The Broncos) turned the ball over 16 times on offense, which I believe is first in the NFL, which is pretty impressive when a quarterback (leads an offense that has) only has 16 turnovers. Jake has gotten quite good at avoiding sacks as well. He has to be able to not turn the football over and avoid sacks like he has been able to do."

On St. Louis' speed
"Yes, they have great speed. Take a look at their special teams, take a look at the defense, take a look at (defensive end Leonard) Little he goes right to the front. Take a look at their linebackers and take a look at their secondary and it starts with speed and a lot of that transfers over to special teams. As you can see, it is a different defense from a year ago. Offensively you have got the same team coming back, except for a tight end and fullback. The tight end (Joe Klopfenstein) from Colorado that has played extremely well… I would say his name but I am not sure exactly how to pronounce it."

On the difficulty of preparing against a first-year NFL head coach
"It's not really too hard. I think it is a little bit harder when they are coming out of the collegiate level because you are not really sure exactly what they are going to do. But when you take people that have been in the NFL for a couple of years you can take a look at what they have done offensively and defensively. You can go back and look at Miami, take a look at Minnesota from the offensive standpoint (where Rams Head Coach Scott Linehan previously worked), obviously look at (Defensive Coordinator) Jim (Haslett) from the defensive standpoint and there is a little mixture of coaches on the staff as well. Before you play the first game, you have a chance to go back and look at all of those connections. When someone is coming fresh out of college you really aren't sure exactly what they are going to do because sometimes they are influenced by some of the coaches on their staff."

On what he thought about St. Louis rookie TE Joe Klopfenstein during the draft
"We liked him. He is a big kid who has great athletic ability. He can catch the ball and is effective in the running game, so we thought he was going to go in the second round, somewhere in the second round. We really weren't sure where but we had him ranked high."

On whether there is a learning curve with QB Plummer and new addition WR Javon Walker
"I think that normally you are talking about young wide receivers coming out of college where there is more of a learning curve. A receiver from the NFL has already played in game situations. He has played bump coverage and has played all types of safety ‘D' and blitz situations. They have a pretty good feel. A lot of times the depth and stem of the run will be a little bit different, but for a guy like Javon (Walker) to go through all of our OTA days and camp, you are pretty much on the same page. For a young guy coming in, it is really hard to make a comparison to bump coverage in college and bump coverage in the NFL. All of these corners can run and all of these corners are fast. At the collegiate level, a lot of times you are going to get a guy who is a great college player but he still runs in the 4.6 range, maybe a 4.55. But when you know you can't run right by them you are a little bit more afraid. I think that is the biggest difference."

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