John Fox arrives for the annual NFL meetings at the Arizona Biltmore. (Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports)

John Fox Discuss the State of the Broncos at Annual Meeting

John Fox spoke to the media this morning at the NFL annual meeting’s brunch. Here are some highlights from his talk:

On if Denver will use a lot of three-receiver sets with newly-acquired WR Wes Welker

“I think I mentioned this when we signed Wes. This game is about matchups, and depending on what matchups you get defensively… One of the reasons we went a lot of what we call 12-personnel was if they go to nickel or put a DB in to cover one of those tight ends, [then] all of a sudden they’ve gotten smaller so there are some advantages there in the run game. Everybody does this. Now, if they sub base then it’s a matchup you like in the passing game. You do the same thing with the three-wide sets—we call it 11-personnel. What do they have against you? How are they going to matchup defensively? A lot of it is how the defense matches up. Having had to defend Wes for so many years, you learn to appreciate how touch a matchup he is. It’s hard to have one guy cover him.”

On the fax issue with DE Elvis Dumervil

“I’ll be honest with you, I don’t do much faxing. That was part of the issue, but at the end of the day, the greater issue was that we waited and waited and it didn’t happen. But we’ve expressed about as much about that as we can. I think we did a 500-word report on that. The timeline—I think it was just one of those things that just happens. Sometimes unfortunate things happen and now we’ve moved on.”

On potentially re-signing Dumervil

“He’s definitely in the mix. He’s definitely a player that I’ve enjoyed coaching. He’s done good things for our staff, defensively and as a football team as a defensive captain. The kid made a lot of big plays for us this year and last. He’s definitely a guy that is in the mix for us and will be in the mix, should be in the mix, and we’ll see where that takes us.”

On G Louis Vazquez

“Well we targeted a couple guys. We couldn’t sit there and hope that everybody came back healthy [on the offensive line]. I mean, we could have, but I’m not sure that would have been the wisest thing to do. Credit [Executive Vice President of Football Operations] John [Elway] and the personnel people—basically identifying a couple guys as we started studying and liked. We were real excited to get Louis. He’ll give us a guy that battles and is capable of starting and may get a competition. Guys have to win that on the field.”

On making unemotional decisions on the roster

“It’s tremendously hard. Sometimes, right here at these meetings, I listen to Condoleezza Rice talk about, ‘Don’t let the today’s decisions be affected by tomorrow’s headlines.’ That’s a hard thing to do, especially when there are loyalties built. You have teams where maybe a guy has been an eight-year vet for you and done a lot of good things. It’s a hard business. If it was easy, anybody could do it. Those are definitely tough things. Especially when somebody has been so loyal to you and you feel that bond. Through the course of time, I’ve cut guys that have been Pro Bowl players for me and that’s never easy.”

On QB Peyton Manning’s arm strength over the course of the season

“I would say any time you sit out and don’t play for a whole season, regardless of the injury—just the idea at that position, the timing, the footwork, the ball-handling. All those things are timing things. They take some time to get back. Then, to be fighting an injury that could maybe cause some weakness in your arm or feeling or whatever, we really didn’t know where it was going to go. But it’s a great tribute to him. He worked unbelievably hard to get back in there. The timing with his teammates to just handling the ball to normal weight and conditioning work—it was phenomenal. The guy lived at our facility for a year. Then to have the success he did at a high level like the NFL at the quarterback position is even more remarkable. Surprised? Maybe. Shocked? No. Just because of the kind of guy he is and the kind of competitor he is. But it was pretty remarkable what he accomplished.”

On signing free agents like CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

“Every year in the offseason you make acquisitions, whether it’s in free agency or the draft. I coached college football for a lot of years and everybody wanted to talk about recruiting classes. I don’t think you immediately know, other than on paper. You don’t know on the field yet. But there are people that of course will make all kind of speculations on paper. But I haven’t won too many games on paper. Otherwise we’d just go around writing down scores. If they would let me, I’d do it. And we’d always have more than they did (laughing). That might be the unfair part of it. So you just don’t know. That’s not knocking any of them, but there’s no question that ‘DRC’ (Rodgers-Cromartie) has great ability. It’s our job to get the most of it out of him, just like anybody that had him before. We’ll see how that goes, how hard he’s willing to work and adapt to what we’re teaching him.”

On what he expects from LB Von Miller this year

“I think just get better. He improved from year one to year two. He had a great rookie year. It’s not fair to say, but I’m just telling you, I know the sky is the limit. I think the reason he improved—physically, he’s the same cat—[but] mentally, he’s being able to key and diagnose things quicker. I think another year of that kind of improvement in his game is just going to [help]. He had a pick-six this year. Those types of things—understanding coverages, understanding how offenses try to exploit him—all the things he’s experienced, all of the sudden that great athletic ability is used even more.”

On whether he has talked to Manning since the signing of Welker

“Yeah. Oh yeah, he’s excited. It’s tough for him a little bit because he’s good buddies with ‘Stoke’ (WR Brandon Stokley), and Stoke did a real good job for us. It’s back to those relationships—players build them, too. They’ve got good buddies. A lot of time moving in this league can be tough. That was the downside. But I think everybody is pretty excited.”

On the hurry-up

“You try to get into the perfect play all the time. Sometimes you take longer. Sometimes you just need to run or pass, just run it quickly and that’s when defenses screw up.”

On people being surprised that Manning wants to be coached

“It’s real. It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks, there’s no doubt about that. He’s had a lot of success, so that’s hard to change when he knows something works. But, the game changes, the game evolves. He does as much research about how people are practicing. When we were at the Pro Bowl, it was like quiz time with all the other players and all the other coaches. We kind of do that every year anyways. You always want to learn and grow. He’s the same way. He’s always looking for an edge.”

On the running backs

“We have a pretty large stable. All of them have circumstances that we have to deal with through the offseason. I think we leaned on all of them last year. Whether it was Ronnie Hillman, Knowshon [Moreno] or Lance Ball, they all got opportunities. Our young guy (Hillman) is getting better. We’re really pleased with him. What we do in free agency the rest of the way and what we possibly do in the draft, we’re looking to get better as a football team. That includes running back.”

On whether coaching Manning has changed the way he coaches

“Oh yeah, there were certain times, certain places where I wouldn’t have considered a pass—zero percent (laughing). I’m just being honest. Now, it changes. So, definitely. He’s one of the most prolific passers in the modern game.”

On whether Welker’s experience with Brady will help him fit in with Manning

“Well, I don’t know this—you’d have to ask Wes—but I’m not sure that he was going to go to any quarterback. The fact that he was with Tom Brady, it’s not a real bad back up to go to Peyton Manning. Now if you threw a different name in there, it might be a different scenario. Wes is a smart guy. You’d have to ask him, but I think this ended up being a good fit because of the quarterback comparison and a team that’s shown it’s capable of winning.”

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