Troy Renck from the Denver Post talks shop with ITP

As we ramp up to this weekend’s Patriots-Broncos matchup in Foxboro, Inside The Pylon recently welcomed the Denver Post’s Broncos beat reporter @TroyRenck to chat about this Sunday’s matchup and more. You can read Troy’s columns here, peruse his First-and-Orange blog, and read up on all of the Post’s Broncos coverage from Troy and his colleagues.

A 1993 graduate of the University of Colorado’s school of journalism, Troy began covering the Colorado Rockies beat in 2002 for the Post, a role in which he distinguished himself for more than a decade before moving over to the Broncos’ beat earlier this year. He also served as the Post’s national baseball writer for four years, is a past president of Denver’s local chapter of Baseball Writers Association of America and has won more than 20 local and national writing awards.

Troy’s a busy guy and we can’t thank him enough for joining us. So, let’s jump right into it…


ITP: With all the offensive pass interference penalties being called on Patriots wide receiver Brandon LaFell, how do the Broncos run so many crossing routes and rub plays without getting flagged for OPI?

Troy Renck: They practice it frequently and make it an art form. The key is to make the rub look like a route, not a pick. Of course they get away with picks. Other teams do as well. The Broncos do it well because they work on it, and have personnel that suits these plays.


ITP: Denver’s pass defense seems to have really taken a step forward this year, going from 6.2 YPA last year (basically average) to 5.4 (second-best in the NFL). Do you think that’s due more to the additions in the secondary (Aqib Talib, Bradley Roby, T.J. Ward), the additions to the pass rush (DeMarcus Ware, a full year from Von Miller, getting Derek Wolfe back) or something else?

Troy: The Broncos have made their last four opponents one-dimensional. As a result, they use more blitzes, and take chances in coverages. They have better talent than last year. The return of Miller and additions of Ware, Talib, and Wolfe can’t be overstated. This is not the defense that played in the Super Bowl. Not even close.


ITP: How has the Denver OL in general performed this season? Are they an elite unit? How much do they benefit from playing in front of Peyton Manning?

Troy: They are an elite pass protection unit. They do it the most and are good at it, and Manning releases the ball as quickly as any quarterback in the league. The numbers show this. All lines that play in front of Manning benefit because he audibles out of negative plays and releases the ball quickly, making sacks difficult.


ITP: We saw the Seahawks’ pass rush really take it to the Denver OL in the Super Bowl. Ryan Clady‘s back now, but is that enough if they go up against a top pass rush again? How’s Orlando Franklin settling in at LG and Clark at RT? Did the offseason plans work or do they miss Zane Beadles?

Troy: The offensive line continues to improve. Clark was benched in favor of Paul Cornick. Clark and center Manny Ramirez have not graded out well this season. They miss Beadles’ ability to get to [the] second level on blocks. The offseason plan to switch Franklin deserves an inconclusive grade. He still has time to prove it was right decision.


ITP: Third-year RB Ronnie Hillman has become a major backfield presence the past three games, making the most of the opportunity created by Montee Ball‘s groin injury. He’s picked up 283 ground yards (4.9-yard avg) and another 74 on passes (10 receptions on 14 targets, 7.4-yard avg). Yet he’s struggled in all of his previous chances with the Broncos. What do you see as the keys to his emergence?

Troy: Hillman was the youngest player in the NFL his first two years. He would have come out of college this year. He has matured off the field, realizing that the NFL is a job. He bulked up some in the offseason as well. He profiles as a third-down back, but has capitalized on his opportunity, running with urgency and attitude. Helping Hillman is that the holes on this line open and close quickly. He gets to the line quickly, so his skill set fits better. At least it has for the last four weeks.


ITP: With Hillman and Juwan Thompson now carrying the load in the running, do you expect Montee Ball to regain his starting job once he returns from injury?

Troy: Ball will fall back to second string. He must take advantage of limited opportunities, as Hillman did before he received the starting nod. They haven’t given up on Ball, but circumstances have changed. Ball has experienced bad luck this year, starting with an appendectomy that cost him all but one series in the preseason.


ITP: Last season in Foxboro, the Broncos relied heavily on the run game. Do you see that happening again?

Troy: They relied on the run because of the weather and the Patriots’ defense. New England dared them to run. Denver did, and did it well with Knowshon Moreno. Hillman isn’t a 25-carry-type back. If the weather is awful, the Broncos could lean more on the run. But they have used passes to set up the run recently, using a lot of empty backfield sets early in games. Again, weather could force a change of thinking, as in severe cold or wind.


ITP: How has Chris Harris been affected by last season’s ACL injury?

Troy: He says he still thinks about it. It hasn’t shown up on the stats. He remains a top cover cornerback according to Pro Football Focus. He was an undrafted free agent. Takes zero for granted. He knows the defense as well as Manning knows the offense.


ITP: How has Danny Trevathan‘s injury affected the defensive game plan(s)? Is there a concern that his injuries are chronic?

Troy: Trevathan’s knee injuries, for now, are cast as bad luck. Both happened on running plays where he was rolled up on and blocked. Brandon Marshall has played well in his absence. [Denver defensive coordinator] Jack Del Rio thinks so much of him, he let Marshall call the defensive signals. Marshall plays great in space, staying on the field in nickel coverage.


ITP: It seems like linebacker Nate Irving has already seen a reduction in snaps with Marshall becoming nearly an every down player. Could Irving be the odd man out?

Troy: Irving is constantly fighting the rep that he is keeping the seat warm for someone else. He has played well in what he’s been asked to do: defend the run. He’s a one- or two-down linebacker.


ITP: How do you the see the Broncos handling coverage on Rob Gronkowski? I am assuming a team effort among the linebackers and safeties but any chance Talib gets a crack at him like he did against Jimmy Graham last year? Has Talib seen any man coverage on tight ends so far this season? Can Brandon Marshall cover Gronk?

Troy: Talib will be involved, but the Broncos don’t typically allow a corner to go man an entire game. Look for a combination of players, including T.J. Ward and Marshall. But their best matchup is Talib.


ITP: Defensive end Derek Wolfe has had a difficult year, something your paper has done a terrific job covering. How is he performing and how is he doing off the field?

Troy: Wolfe is a big reason why the rush defense has improved dramatically over the past month. He says he’s comfortable at his heavier weight and that his neck problems are behind him. He seems to be in a much better place mentally.


ITP: How important was the Seattle game this year after the loss in the Super Bowl? Did playing a preseason game against the Hawks have an effect on that?

Troy: It was important that they stood up to the bully. They didn’t win, but left the game feeling they could have. That was important given how much the Super Bowl loss still stings. They left Seattle knowing they closed the gap.


ITP: Do the Broncos have a need anywhere on the field right now? How is their depth?

Troy: They lack depth at offensive tackle. The line, in general, has been just OK. They have more depth in the secondary given the encouraging play of first-round pick Bradley Roby.


ITP: How important has the acquisition of Emmanuel Sanders been for Peyton Manning and the offense?

Troy: He stretches the defense. Eric Decker was great in the red zone, but he couldn’t go deep like Sanders. You could argue that Manning has never had a receiver as fast as Sanders. What impresses me about Sanders is his work ethic. He is a gym rat. And he’s tough. Has no fear of pinball slot routes.


ITP: While Manning is obviously the quarterback of the present, how does the organization feel about Brock Osweiler? Will he take over the job when Manning is done or do you think the front office would like to look elsewhere?

Troy: They like Osweiler. It all depends on how long Manning plays. I can’t see Osweiler re-signing as a free agent if Manning is still here.


ITP: How did Manning’s complaints about crowd noise go over with your readers and/or twitter followers?

Troy: Manning gets gently chided for being so obsessive. Hard to complain about the results. He wins. A lot.


ITP: Did the backlash against the contrived celebration “keep-away” include Bronco fans? Or was that just us Peyton-haters? 😉

Troy: Crickets in Denver. It’s viewed as another Manning moment. He’s so detail-oriented, he’d plan his own surprise party. It is maniacal. But it’s also what makes him great.


ITP: Wes Welker‘s departure to the Broncos was a tough loss for Patriots fans, but he doesn’t seem like the same guy since he went to Denver. Will Welker be on the 2016 Broncos roster?

Troy: Highly unlikely given that they drafted Cody Latimer in second round. But Welker brings toughness and leadership that the team absolutely loves. He’s a favorite of Manning’s as well.


ITP: Brandon McManus has struggled on field goals from long-distance, missing both of his attempts over 50 yards. Is this at all an area of concern for the Broncos, given their decision to let Matt Prater go?

Troy: It remains a source of criticism. And it will be a sore point until McManus makes a big kick on the road.


ITP: Britton Colquitt has been phenomenal for the Broncos so far, with 14 punts inside the 20 and zero touchbacks. How big a factor has this been in allowing the defense to be aggressive deep in enemy territory?

Troy: He is a weapon and has a knack for pinning teams. And it really helps on the road where noise is a factor in end zones. When teams can’t hear, tackles are easy marks for Ware and Miller.


Once again, all of us at Inside The Pylon want to express our appreciation for Troy’s generosity with both his time and his words. It’s been our pleasure. Thanks, Troy!

Follow Mark on Twitter @mabrowndog.

Mark Brown is the Executive Editor of Inside The Pylon, and has written about the dangers ofball watching, the finer points of strip-sacks, what it’s like to be a Jet, and what CFB you should watch, and is a proponent of using evidence to refute hot sports takes.

As we ramp up to this weekend’s Patriots-Broncos matchup in Foxboro, Inside The Pylon recently welcomed the Denver Post’s Broncos beat reporter @TroyRenck to chat about this Sunday’s matchup and more. You can read Troy’s columns here, peruse his First-and-Orange blog, and read up on all of the Post’s Broncos coverage from Troy and his colleagues.

A 1993 graduate of the University of Colorado’s school of journalism, Troy began covering the Colorado Rockies beat in 2002 for the Post, a role in which he distinguished himself for more than a decade before moving over to the Broncos’ beat earlier this year. He also served as the Post’s national baseball writer for four years, is a past president of Denver’s local chapter of Baseball Writers Association of America and has won more than 20 local and national writing awards.

Troy’s a busy guy and we can’t thank him enough for joining us. So, let’s jump right into it…


ITP: With all the offensive pass interference penalties being called on Patriots wide receiver Brandon LaFell, how do the Broncos run so many crossing routes and rub plays without getting flagged for OPI?

Troy Renck: They practice it frequently and make it an art form. The key is to make the rub look like a route, not a pick. Of course they get away with picks. Other teams do as well. The Broncos do it well because they work on it, and have personnel that suits these plays.


ITP: Denver’s pass defense seems to have really taken a step forward this year, going from 6.2 YPA last year (basically average) to 5.4 (second-best in the NFL). Do you think that’s due more to the additions in the secondary (Aqib Talib, Bradley Roby, T.J. Ward), the additions to the pass rush (DeMarcus Ware, a full year from Von Miller, getting Derek Wolfe back) or something else?

Troy: The Broncos have made their last four opponents one-dimensional. As a result, they use more blitzes, and take chances in coverages. They have better talent than last year. The return of Miller and additions of Ware, Talib, and Wolfe can’t be overstated. This is not the defense that played in the Super Bowl. Not even close.


ITP: How has the Denver OL in general performed this season? Are they an elite unit? How much do they benefit from playing in front of Peyton Manning?

Troy: They are an elite pass protection unit. They do it the most and are good at it, and Manning releases the ball as quickly as any quarterback in the league. The numbers show this. All lines that play in front of Manning benefit because he audibles out of negative plays and releases the ball quickly, making sacks difficult.


ITP: We saw the Seahawks’ pass rush really take it to the Denver OL in the Super Bowl. Ryan Clady‘s back now, but is that enough if they go up against a top pass rush again? How’s Orlando Franklin settling in at LG and Clark at RT? Did the offseason plans work or do they miss Zane Beadles?

Troy: The offensive line continues to improve. Clark was benched in favor of Paul Cornick. Clark and center Manny Ramirez have not graded out well this season. They miss Beadles’ ability to get to [the] second level on blocks. The offseason plan to switch Franklin deserves an inconclusive grade. He still has time to prove it was right decision.


ITP: Third-year RB Ronnie Hillman has become a major backfield presence the past three games, making the most of the opportunity created by Montee Ball‘s groin injury. He’s picked up 283 ground yards (4.9-yard avg) and another 74 on passes (10 receptions on 14 targets, 7.4-yard avg). Yet he’s struggled in all of his previous chances with the Broncos. What do you see as the keys to his emergence?

Troy: Hillman was the youngest player in the NFL his first two years. He would have come out of college this year. He has matured off the field, realizing that the NFL is a job. He bulked up some in the offseason as well. He profiles as a third-down back, but has capitalized on his opportunity, running with urgency and attitude. Helping Hillman is that the holes on this line open and close quickly. He gets to the line quickly, so his skill set fits better. At least it has for the last four weeks.


ITP: With Hillman and Juwan Thompson now carrying the load in the running, do you expect Montee Ball to regain his starting job once he returns from injury?

Troy: Ball will fall back to second string. He must take advantage of limited opportunities, as Hillman did before he received the starting nod. They haven’t given up on Ball, but circumstances have changed. Ball has experienced bad luck this year, starting with an appendectomy that cost him all but one series in the preseason.


ITP: Last season in Foxboro, the Broncos relied heavily on the run game. Do you see that happening again?

Troy: They relied on the run because of the weather and the Patriots’ defense. New England dared them to run. Denver did, and did it well with Knowshon Moreno. Hillman isn’t a 25-carry-type back. If the weather is awful, the Broncos could lean more on the run. But they have used passes to set up the run recently, using a lot of empty backfield sets early in games. Again, weather could force a change of thinking, as in severe cold or wind.


ITP: How has Chris Harris been affected by last season’s ACL injury?

Troy: He says he still thinks about it. It hasn’t shown up on the stats. He remains a top cover cornerback according to Pro Football Focus. He was an undrafted free agent. Takes zero for granted. He knows the defense as well as Manning knows the offense.


ITP: How has Danny Trevathan‘s injury affected the defensive game plan(s)? Is there a concern that his injuries are chronic?

Troy: Trevathan’s knee injuries, for now, are cast as bad luck. Both happened on running plays where he was rolled up on and blocked. Brandon Marshall has played well in his absence. [Denver defensive coordinator] Jack Del Rio thinks so much of him, he let Marshall call the defensive signals. Marshall plays great in space, staying on the field in nickel coverage.


ITP: It seems like linebacker Nate Irving has already seen a reduction in snaps with Marshall becoming nearly an every down player. Could Irving be the odd man out?

Troy: Irving is constantly fighting the rep that he is keeping the seat warm for someone else. He has played well in what he’s been asked to do: defend the run. He’s a one- or two-down linebacker.


ITP: How do you the see the Broncos handling coverage on Rob Gronkowski? I am assuming a team effort among the linebackers and safeties but any chance Talib gets a crack at him like he did against Jimmy Graham last year? Has Talib seen any man coverage on tight ends so far this season? Can Brandon Marshall cover Gronk?

Troy: Talib will be involved, but the Broncos don’t typically allow a corner to go man an entire game. Look for a combination of players, including T.J. Ward and Marshall. But their best matchup is Talib.


ITP: Defensive end Derek Wolfe has had a difficult year, something your paper has done a terrific job covering. How is he performing and how is he doing off the field?

Troy: Wolfe is a big reason why the rush defense has improved dramatically over the past month. He says he’s comfortable at his heavier weight and that his neck problems are behind him. He seems to be in a much better place mentally.


ITP: How important was the Seattle game this year after the loss in the Super Bowl? Did playing a preseason game against the Hawks have an effect on that?

Troy: It was important that they stood up to the bully. They didn’t win, but left the game feeling they could have. That was important given how much the Super Bowl loss still stings. They left Seattle knowing they closed the gap.


ITP: Do the Broncos have a need anywhere on the field right now? How is their depth?

Troy: They lack depth at offensive tackle. The line, in general, has been just OK. They have more depth in the secondary given the encouraging play of first-round pick Bradley Roby.


ITP: How important has the acquisition of Emmanuel Sanders been for Peyton Manning and the offense?

Troy: He stretches the defense. Eric Decker was great in the red zone, but he couldn’t go deep like Sanders. You could argue that Manning has never had a receiver as fast as Sanders. What impresses me about Sanders is his work ethic. He is a gym rat. And he’s tough. Has no fear of pinball slot routes.


ITP: While Manning is obviously the quarterback of the present, how does the organization feel about Brock Osweiler? Will he take over the job when Manning is done or do you think the front office would like to look elsewhere?

Troy: They like Osweiler. It all depends on how long Manning plays. I can’t see Osweiler re-signing as a free agent if Manning is still here.


ITP: How did Manning’s complaints about crowd noise go over with your readers and/or twitter followers?

Troy: Manning gets gently chided for being so obsessive. Hard to complain about the results. He wins. A lot.


ITP: Did the backlash against the contrived celebration “keep-away” include Bronco fans? Or was that just us Peyton-haters? 😉

Troy: Crickets in Denver. It’s viewed as another Manning moment. He’s so detail-oriented, he’d plan his own surprise party. It is maniacal. But it’s also what makes him great.


ITP: Wes Welker‘s departure to the Broncos was a tough loss for Patriots fans, but he doesn’t seem like the same guy since he went to Denver. Will Welker be on the 2016 Broncos roster?

Troy: Highly unlikely given that they drafted Cody Latimer in second round. But Welker brings toughness and leadership that the team absolutely loves. He’s a favorite of Manning’s as well.


ITP: Brandon McManus has struggled on field goals from long-distance, missing both of his attempts over 50 yards. Is this at all an area of concern for the Broncos, given their decision to let Matt Prater go?

Troy: It remains a source of criticism. And it will be a sore point until McManus makes a big kick on the road.


ITP: Britton Colquitt has been phenomenal for the Broncos so far, with 14 punts inside the 20 and zero touchbacks. How big a factor has this been in allowing the defense to be aggressive deep in enemy territory?

Troy: He is a weapon and has a knack for pinning teams. And it really helps on the road where noise is a factor in end zones. When teams can’t hear, tackles are easy marks for Ware and Miller.


Once again, all of us at Inside The Pylon want to express our appreciation for Troy’s generosity with both his time and his words. It’s been our pleasure. Thanks, Troy!

Follow Mark on Twitter @mabrowndog.

Mark Brown is the Executive Editor of Inside The Pylon, and has written about the dangers ofball watching, the finer points of strip-sacks, what it’s like to be a Jet, and what CFB you should watch, and is a proponent of using evidence to refute hot sports takes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.