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Bolts' Division Rivals Speak at Combine
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General Manager Tom Telesco wasn’t the only prominent figure from the AFC West to take center stage at Lucas Oil Stadium. The three head coaches from the Bolts division rivals also addressed the media this week at the Combine. Below are the main takeaways from John Fox of the Denver Broncos, Andy Reid of the Kansas City Chiefs and Dennis Allen of the Oakland Raiders.
Denver Broncos –John Fox graced the main podium with many eager ears awaiting an update on the AFC Champions.
“I give Seattle tremendous credit for playing very well, playing better than we did,” he said. “I think as you look back (you) get a chance to look at the tape and expound on that. I think we’re capable of playing better. Not taking anything away from them, they had a lot to do with it. It was disappointing that we didn’t play better. We had a great season and unfortunately we did not have our best effort in the last game…I played in the Super Bowl in 2000 against the Baltimore Ravens, which was probably record-wise the best defense ever in the league. That game kind of went similar. (Seattle’s defense is) very talented. Good length. Good speed. You don’t trot through the regular season being the best defense in the league for nothing. They’re very good.’’
Of course, everyone wanted to get an update on league MVP Peyton Manning, who’ll be 38 next season. Fox didn’t provide an update on how much longer he’d be under center other than to say it looks good for the foreseeable future.
“That’s something you’ll have to ask him. I know he had a very, very productive, maybe the most productive season in the history of the league a year ago. I’d say it looks pretty good for him moving forward.”
For some local San Diego flavor, Fox also addressed former Aztec running back Ronnie Hillman, who was inactive for the most of 2013.
“He’s a tremendous talent,” he said. “And I think obviously everybody has their own style of offense and ours is a little bit of communication at the line so it changes. I think that slows down, in my opinion, a running back’s development. He’s had no issues running the ball. He put it on the ground a couple times, like they all do, early in the season and really was in the mix. And we had some other guys C.J. Anderson, Montee Ball and Knowshon (Moreno) and the way it kind of works out sometimes, there’s only so many (that) can get a uniform on game day. He’s in that mix, I think he’s a tremendous talent, he does give us great explosion as a runner, particularly to the perimeter. I know he’ll work really hard this offseason and try to develop and get ready for next year.”
Kansas City Chiefs – Later on Thursday afternoon, Andy Reid addressed the media. After taking over for a 2-14 team that finished last in 2012, Reid guided the Chiefs to an 11-5 record and a Wild Card berth into the playoffs where they fell in dramatic fashion to the Indianapolis Colts.
"We're coming off a year where we did some good things,” he said in his opening statement. “We've got a lot of improvement to make this offseason, which we'll do. We started going forward as coaches and working on that part. (General Manager) John Dorsey, obviously, is in charge of personnel, and he's doing a good job there with his guys and the scouts.”
Jamaal Charles is one of the most dangerous weapons in the league at running back, but the Chiefs have a young up-and-comer right behind him in Knile Davis, who KC drafted in the third round a year ago. Reid was asked about how the two would complement each other going forward.
"You saw as we went on, we were able to do that with Knile. Knile, he was a rookie and he was learning every week and getting better every week. As the season went on, we were able to give him the ball a little bit more. I think coming into the season, we'll be able to mix it up a little bit better than what we did early in the season last year."
Reid feels that one-two punch can be extremely effective compounded with the team’s crop of wideouts and tight ends, who some media members questioned.
"I thought they did a good job,” he said. “Dwayne (Bowe) had his best game the last game. So what we take a lot of pride in doing is spreading the ball around to all of the different people that we have and not really focusing on one person in the throwing game. As a result, that makes defenses have to cover everybody, right? I'm okay with both of those spots."
On the opposite side of the ball, the Chiefs had one of the top defenses in the league a year ago. One of the biggest names was safety Eric Berry, who Reid raved about.
“Eric is asked to do even more than a whole lot,” he said. “We put him all over the place and he was able to pick up a new defense in a year and still be a unanimous Pro Bowl player. So he'll continue to get better the more familiar he becomes with the defense. So the more he plays in it, the better he'll get. It's pretty exciting.”
Oakland Raiders – The Raiders were the only AFC West team not to make the playoffs in 2013, but Head Coach Dennis Allen believes his team is on the right track. Still, he admitted 2014 will be a daunting season for every team in the division as they all not only have to play each other twice, but also square off against the formidable NFC West as well.
“Next year, we’ve got the AFC West, and there are three playoff teams in that division,” he explained. “And we play the NFC West as part of our schedule. There’s obviously a sense of urgency, but I don’t think it’s any more so than any other year. But we want to try to improve this football team and we want to get this organization back to winning championships, which is what this organization needs to be able to do.”
Picking fifth overall in this year’s Draft with a number of quarterbacks expected to be drafted in the top 10, Allen was asked if the team’s starting QB was currently on the roster.
“I don’t know the answer to that yet,” he admitted. “That’s obviously a position we’re going to look at to try and improve, as well as any other position, but that’s obviously a position that we really got to. The quarterback position is the backbone of your football team. We have to make sure when we go out there this year that we put ourselves in the best position to have success with the quarterback position.”
So might Johnny Manziel, one of the most exciting young players to come out of the college ranks in some time, be an option for the Raiders?
“Obviously, he’s accomplished a lot at the collegiate level, being the first freshman to win the Heisman trophy,” he said. “That speaks in and of itself how good a football player he is. I think he’s a very talented football player and is a multi-dimensional player in that he’s able to throw the ball from the pocket and he can create things with his feet. As we get more into the evaluation process, he’ll be a fun guy to be able to evaluate.”
Allen was also asked about Terrelle Pryor, who began the year as the team’s starting passer before being replaced by Matt McGloin.
“I think you saw a young quarterback who needs time to develop,” he said. “That’s what you see with a lot of young guys. There were times where he went out and played exceptionally well, and there were times where he didn’t play as well, and those are all learning experiences. Those are all things we got to hopefully learn from those mistakes that were made and be able to move forward and not have the same mistakes.”