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Day One in the Books

Posted Feb 24, 2011

The first day of the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine has come to a close, and Head Coach John Fox spoke on a variety of topics on the day offensive linemen, tight ends and specialists stepped to the podiums.

INDIANAPOLIS -- For Head Coach John Fox, this combine is about firsts.

It was the first time he ever met with the media during the annual event, and he had plenty to say on a number of topics.

It's also the first time the Broncos' new head coach will have a chance to do some heavy research on some of the top prospects in this year's draft.

"Our scouting department has been involved all year long," Fox said. "The one think with coaches is (we got) a little taste with the Senior Bowl as far as draft-eligible guys, and then this is really our first big look."

Fox and the rest of the staff are in the process of figuring out who to select with the No. 2 overall pick come April 21. The head coach didn't get into any specifics about players they're keeping an eye on, but he said -- with the exception of the record that accompanied it -- holding the second selection puts the team in an enviable position.

"With the second pick, obviously you're going to get a heck of a football player -- we are counting on that," Fox said. "It's pretty exciting and very similar to when I first went to Carolina -- we had the second pick in the draft. The Broncos and myself are very excited about that."

QUARTERBACK COMPETITION

When asked about the team's quarterback position, Fox made it clear that Kyle Orton is the starter -- but noted that he can't predict what will happen come Week 1.

"That's today," Fox said. "I've always believed that bringing competition is really important, I don't care what position. We'll see. I like all three guys. They've had some version of success. They're different, but we're going to play the one that plays the best."

Fox called the group of players in the quarterback room "very capable," and said that while Orton is the starter "today," Tim Tebow "did an outstanding job" starting at the end of the 2010 season, and has the intangibles many coaches look for in a signal caller. He said he's looking forward to see Brady Quinn play, as he was familiar with him throughout the draft process and watched many of his 12 starts in Cleveland.

"I don't think we will really figure it out until we start competing," Fox said. "All three, I think we're excited about."

TRANSITIONING ON DEFENSE

The move from a 3-4 back to a 4-3 defense was pinpointed by Fox as one of the most important processes this offseason.

With most college teams utilizing a 4-3, he said it will make evaluating how prospects will transition to the next level a little easier.

Another factor that could ease the process is the return of a healthy Elvis Dumervil, who led the league in sacks in 2009.

"I think (Dumervil's absence) hurt the Broncos' defense," Fox said. "We are really anxious to get him back -- he is healthy and I see him as a defensive end. He is a unique guy. He has excellent skills as far as rushing the passer, and last time he was healthy, he had 17 sacks. We are excited to get him back first and foremost."

In addition, Fox sees Robert Ayers stepping in at defensive end as well.

"I evaluated him coming out (of college)," the head coach said. "I saw him as a 4-3 defensive end. He has played primarily as a 3-4 outside linebacker -- we have him penciled in as a defense end. ... I have the utmost confidence that he will be a productive player for us this coming year."

ONE-TWO PUNCH

In Carolina, Fox had the benefit of utilizing two first-round picks at running back.

DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart set an NFL record in 2009 by becoming the first teammates to both rush for more than 1,100 yards en route to a No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs for the Panthers.

The head coach mentioned that formula at the podium on Thursday. While a team doesn't need two first-round picks at the position, he believes it helps to have two good players who can provide a change of pace for a defense.

"I think you need more than one back if you are going to consistently run it through the season -- just through the standpoint of that guy takes a lot of shots," Fox said. "In my opinion, you need more than one guy to actually make a full commitment to running the ball. We will be in that process of finding more than one guy."

He said he has liked what he's seen from Knowshon Moreno, and believes he fits well into the idea of the two-back system.

"I think he's a good, young player," he said. "I think he's getting better with time. I know (Running Backs Coach) Eric Studesville has a lot of regard for him, and I think he's done a good job with it thus far. Like all of us, we can all get better."

LINEMEN DOMINATE THE DAY

The biggest crowds at the first day of the combine almost exclusively belonged to offensive linemen.

Big names like Colorado's Nate Solder, Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi, Boston College's Anthony Castonzo and Baylor's Danny Watkins all drew plenty of recorders and flashbulbs.

But perhaps the most interesting story of the day belonged to Florida offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert.

The prospect started 30 games for the Gators, the majority of which came protecting Tebow's blind side at the right tackle position.

"Tim Tebow's like the governor of Florida," Gilbert laughed. "Protecting Tim Tebow, that's something I'm always going to cherish. He's one of the best football players in college football history if not the best. I take great pride in that. It's a team sport, you want not just to protect him, but get the job done as a team. I think when you protect a guy like Tim Tebow, he can do great things."

Protecting runs in the family for Gilbert. His father retired from the Secret Service just last May after personally protecting former President Bill Clinton and current President Barack Obama.

"Just getting that experience and that whole deal, I think it was pretty fun and interesting, because most people never got that kind of chance to do it," he said.

Gilbert hopes to continue that trend in the NFL, and he's using the combine to prove he belongs.

"I just want to show that I'm one of the best tackles out there," he said, adding that Tebow and other Florida alums helped prepare the current Gators for the rigors of the combine. "Come out here and compete and have fun. Just showcase my skills and try to elevate, show them that my game is higher than what most people realize."

THE KICKING HEN(E)RYS

Nebraska's all-time leading scorer didn't step to a podium today. Rather, kicker Alex Henery sat quietly at a table, answering questions from a handful of gathered reporters.

Henery was voted a captain by his teammates for two consecutive years, and called it an honor. The next honor on his checklist would be getting drafted by an NFL team.

His ability to make clutch kicks throughout his career -- he made a school-record 57-yarder against Colorado his sophomore year -- could help that goal.

"I just make sure I'm extra focused," Henery said of his mindset late in games. "I'm a low-key guy and I don't build up a situation over others. Whether it's a 57-yarder or an extra point, I have the same approach."

One of the top kicking prospects in the draft, he said he anticipates maintaining consistency in his game as he heads to the professional ranks.

"It's still kicking, whether it's a high school field or the NFL."

The other kicking Henry in this year's draft is Florida's Chas Henry, who is considered among the top punting prospects. 

But the 2010 Ray Guy award winner isn't just resting on his punting laurels. During his time in Gainesville, Henry also served as the Gators' field goal kicker and kickoff specialist.

Henry says that he plans on demonstrating all three kicking acumens during his combine workouts in hopes that his draft stock will improve at a position that doesn't produce many draft choices.

"Over the last couple of years, they (punters) have gone as high as the third round to seventh to free agent," Henry said. "There are guys who were free agents that are still in the NFL.  It is a waiting game and you just hope your name is called and you go to a great organization."

QUOTE OF THE DAY:
"I want to run a good 40(-yard dash) time to show you that big boy can run a little bit."
-Arkansas TE D.J.  Williams, who checks in at 6-foot-2, 245-pounds

Check back with DenverBroncos.com tomorrow for more coverage from the combine, featuring interviews with quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers.

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