The devil is in the details.
Hell, in the NFL, winning is in the details.
It’s certainly one of the reasons the Denver Broncos have been so bad over the last six seasons, missing out on the playoffs every year while losing 13 straight games to the AFC West rival Kansas City Chiefs.
Good teams execute in two phases of the game. Great teams execute in all three phases, and they pay attention to all the little details along the way.
That’s why the Broncos are in good hands with Russell Wilson as a player-leader on the football field for the offense.
“It’s been really good. I think ‘Russ’ has done a really good job of always having something to say, always having a pointer to anything that we’re installing and anything we’re doing,” third-year tight end Albert Okwuegbunam explained on Thursday at Dove Valley. “He always has something to add onto it to just kind of help our offensive players adapt.”
Wilson is learning a new offense in Nathaniel Hackett’s, but he’s also helping young players like Albert O. pick up on all the small things which will not only make this Broncos offense run, but function effectively immediately.
“It could be just a little detail about protection, it could be a little detail about coverage and what we might do if we see this look,” Okwuegbunam continued. “I think that’s one thing directly on the field that he’s been doing a good job of.”
That direct, outward leadership is exactly what the Broncos have needed from the quarterback position since Peyton Manning retired from the game in Feb. of 2016. Especially now, with so many young offensive players.
Albert O. is entering his third year and is competing against rookie Greg Dulcich for the starting tight end spot. At wideout, Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick are the veterans, with four years of experience each, while Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler have about two and a half seasons of experience between the both of them, though they’ve both been in the league for two years. Jeudy dealt with a high ankle sprain, missing seven games last year. Meanwhile, it was much more severe for Hamler with his ACL and partial hip tear, playing in only three games last season.
And then there’s also Javonte Williams, the rookie running back sensation from last year, as well as a young offensive line featuring Dalton Risner, Lloyd Cushenberry, Quinn Meinerz and others competing for spots.
“That level of respect was already there,” Okwuegbunam said of Russell. “He enforces it every day with the bar he sets and the level of expectation he has of us. There was not a process of him having to earn our respect or anything like that. It was already understood, and he comes in and enforces it and re-establishes that every day. I think we all respect that a lot.”
In a world of alpha males, where every player was the best on his team at some point in their lives, respecting a teammate can be a rare thing in today’s NFL. But not for Wilson. His spectacular career has proven he’s worthy of respect, as with the way he carries himself every day now with the Broncos.
But back to Okwuegbunam, who is competing for that starting tight end spot.
“I love Noah,” Albert O. said of tight end Noah Fant, who was traded as part of the Wilson deal this offseason. “Obviously, that opens up a big opportunity for me. I’ve just been focusing on that and approaching every day with that opportunity and having that competitiveness. Overall, just trying to be the best tight end that I can be and compete for that No. 1 role.”
And what did it mean to him when the Broncos drafted Dulcich in the third round?
“I didn’t think too much of it,” Okwuegbunam explained. “I’m still just focusing and approaching it as being ready to step into that No. 1 spot and do the best to my ability and approach every day the same.”
The truth is, tight ends have been underutilized by Wilson during his career. That could be due to offensive design, though. We know Hackett loves to use multiple tight ends and his offense was able to elevate Robert Tonyan to “star” level thanks to smart play design.
So, it will be interesting and exciting to see what Hackett draws up for Albert O. and Dulcich this year, and how well the new superstar QB can use not only his tight ends, but the wealth of wideout talent, too.