There was a time or two during training camp when the guy behind the wheel of the John Deere pulling a mobile goal post toward a drill was none other than Broncos special-teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers.
As he’d drive from one field to the other, he’d simply say “the more you can do.’’
And the phrase is a common one throughout the league, said sometimes with more than a tinge of irony about doing the task that is presently at hand. But when the Broncos rolled out their first 53-man roster of the season, there were some more-you-can-do guys in there that affected some of the other decisions they made.
Second-year defensive back Omar Bolden was one. He spent his rookie season at cornerback in 2012 and the Broncos liked the way he handled his business, his mental toughness and the way he battled in man coverage. He fully expected to be at cornerback this year, especially when as the players went through check-out day last January, he promised he would compete for far more playing time on the outside.
He got it half right, at least the playing time part, anyway. Roughly two weeks ago Bolden started to show up at safety at times in practice. A snap here, a snap there and in the preseason finale Bolden started at safety against the Cardinals and finished with six tackles.
At 195 pounds he fits the mold of a coverage safety in these pass-happy times, and after watching Bolden's work on special teams the Broncos believed he was a player who can match up on a receiver or tight end down the field, but one who showed himself to be willing to stick his nose in run defense as well. The Broncos feel they could use him at either position in any of their defensive packages.
That swing job was supposed to be Quentin Jammer’s when camp opened, but Jammer is now solely a corner, having never looked all that comfortable at safety, while Bolden has snagged the cornerback/safety gig and the potential playing time that will come with it.
The Broncos will likely spend almost 70 percent of their defensive snaps this season in something other than their base defense, so they will feature more than two safeties in the formation for plenty of snaps, especially in the dime.
“We’re looking for flexibility at safety,’’ is how executive vice president of football operations John Elway put it. “Omar was a guy that does a tremendous job on special teams, so we wanted to look at him at [safety]. And also, with Jammer going back and getting a look at corner, we felt that Quentin is better at corner than he is at safety. So we wanted to look at Omar who has flexibility and is great on fourth down, so we looked at him at safety.’’
In the defensive line, Malik Jackson’s versatility has increased his value as Derek Wolfe’s backup in many of the defensive packages. Jackson, a fifth-round pick in 2012, can play at end on both run downs and pass-rush packages. Jackson also moved inside to defensive tackle in some of the Broncos nickel and dime looks as well.
Jackson played 113 plays on defense last season with 20 of those coming Dec. 2 against Tampa Bay, but he should up that total at least some this time around.
Kick returner Trindon Holliday showed enough at wide receiver in the preseason for the Broncos to go a little light at the position. They kept just five on the current roster, including Holliday. That, and an extra defensive back or two, likely cost rookie wide receiver Tavarres King, a fifth-round pick this past April, a spot. On talent alone, King was/is worthy of a slot on the Broncos roster, but he did not maintain his early momentum in camp and the team's decision-makers didn't believe he was consistent in his day-to-day work habits. King was signed to the team's practice squad Sunday, just before practice began.
And running back Jacob Hester, who had played in most any situation in the backfield when needed, was initially kept on the team's 53-man roster for his multi-tasking as well. He could be featured as a runner, work in the passing game, play fullback and special teams. But with just six linebackers and Von Miller suspended for six games, the Broncos released Hester Sunday morning and brought in linebacker Adrian Robinson.
“That is kind of what you live by, the more you can do,’’ coach John Fox said. “This league is about adjustments and the guys who give you options are always going to be valuable to your program.’’