Broncos' biggest concern: not-so-special teams

BY foxsports • September 16, 2010

Tim Tebow ran right into the pile twice in his NFL debut. Correll Buckhalter fumbled away a promising drive and Denver's defense didn't get to David Garrard enough to prevent him from having a career-high passer rating despite holding Mike Sims-Walker without a catch.

But the biggest issue that emerged for the Denver Broncos in their season-opening loss at Jacksonville last week was lousy kick coverage.

The Jaguars' first 17 points were set up by Mike Thomas' 33-yard punt return and kickoff returns of 46 and 53 yards by Tiquan Underwood.

''On special teams it only takes one person messing to have all 11 mess up,'' said rookie Perrish Cox, who finally chased down Underwood on his two long returns.

Kicker Matt Prater pointed the finger at himself for the Broncos' dismal special teams debut.

''It all starts with me, with the kick,'' Prater said. ''I can do a better job of kicking it. I should have. I didn't kick off as well as I could so a lot of that was on me. If there would have been all touchbacks, we wouldn't be talking about returns. I have to kick off better and not give them a chance to return.''

Prater insisted ''I still think that kickoff coverage is one of the strengths of our team. It's up to us to figure it out and get better at it.''

Discipline was as much an issue as good blocks and that's what the Broncos focused on fixing.

''You don't want to give up those chunks of yardage,'' running back Lance Ball said. ''Our job is to help out the defense. So, we have some things to fix, but they are small things, nothing major. There were some assignments that we could fix. The way you sit on certain plays in certain gaps. We can fix them in a day.''

A quick fix would be good with Seattle's Justin Forsett and Leon Washington coming to town Sunday.

''We don't panic here,'' Nate Jones said. ''We know that we can get things going. We have to do it every time. We had two good ones and two bad ones last week, so we have to have all good ones.''

Linebacker Joe Mays, who was brought in from Philadelphia for his special teams prowess, chalked up the poor performance to nerves.

''Nothing showed up on film that we didn't know of. We knew our assignments. We have to get the first game jitters out. Guys in their first game, just run around and try to make plays,'' he said.

The Broncos began addressing their other concerns this week by trading for New England tailback Laurence Maroney, who missed his second straight practice with a thigh injury that kept him out of the Patriots' opener last week.

Maroney, who declined to comment about the trade Thursday, gives Denver depth at tailback in case Buckhalter or Moreno get hurt again as they did in the preseason.

As for Tebow, don't expect a big jump in his use after he lined up for three snaps Sunday, one time wide right. Coach Josh McDaniels said he's not planning to use his raw rookie quarterback much differently anytime soon.

Even when Tebow did go in, starting quarterback Kyle Orton stayed on the field and relayed the plays given to him through his headset, and McDaniels said he doesn't plan any straight substitutions of his quarterbacks.

The prevailing wisdom heading into this season was that McDaniels would capitalize on the three-time All-American's pass-run option talents by using him in third-and-short or red-zone situations.

Although that didn't happen in the opener, Tebow said Thursday he learned a lot from his first NFL game.

''Just get used to the speed of the game, you just get to watch it, take a lot of mental reps and just see everything from the game plan you've gone over to how it works to adjustments you have to make,'' he said. ''So, a lot of things I feel I can learn and improve on.''

Tebow, who won the Heisman Trophy in 2007, also said it must have been difficult for Reggie Bush, the 2005 winner, to relinquish his trophy this week.

''It means a lot to me and it's a very special moment and something I'll remember and other people around me, my family, will really remember that as well,'' he said.

Tebow said the Heisman isn't really an individual honor, either.

''It's definitely a team award because you couldn't do that without your teammates,'' Tebow said. ''So, I think for me it was something that everybody felt pretty proud about, special about, just from the offensive line to the defense, to the receivers, for everybody, for the coaching staff. It was something I think it meant a lot to all of them.''

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