Denver Broncos expecting competitive punter situation

Feb 7, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Denver Broncos punter Britton Colquitt (4) against the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 at Levi
Feb 7, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Denver Broncos punter Britton Colquitt (4) against the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 at Levi /

The Denver Broncos used a 7th round draft pick on punter Riley Dixon, but no player was a better weapon at punter in the playoffs than Britton Colquitt…

It was a heck of a playoff run for the Denver Broncos last season, but perhaps no player made more of a dramatic improvement in his game from regular to postseason play than punter Britton Colquitt.

The Broncos were not overly strong offensively (to put it nicely) throughout the season until they absolutely needed to be, and in the playoffs, no one was more active than was the punter Colquitt. He finished the 2015 playoffs with 23 punts, eight more kicks than Panthers punter Brad Nortman and 10 more than the next highest guy.

23 punts in four games isn’t exactly what you want as a model of offensive success, but when you have the best defense in the NFL, giving the ball back to the opposing offense turned out to be the Broncos’ best offense at times last year.

That’s not meant to be a slight, it’s just a fact.

It was an undeniable fact in the Super Bowl, as Denver’s defense put up the first touchdown of the game and put the Broncos in an early 10-0 lead. After the Broncos started the game with a glorious 10-play drive that was sadly cut off before they could score a touchdown, a field goal gave them an early 3-0 lead. Their next possession was an all too familiar three-and-out, and Colquitt delivered a great punt to pin the Panthers deep in their own territory.

Their drive started at their own 15, and three plays later, the Broncos would make the signature play in this year’s Super Bowl.

I say all this to set up the fact that despite Colquitt’s excellent playoff performance, the Broncos were not pleased with the whole, and they decided to draft Syracuse punter Riley Dixon. Special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis talked about the drafting of Dixon, and the competition he sees as offseason activities progress:

“We obviously see a good player. We had some inside information, too, because [Special Teams Coaching Assistant] Chris Gould is here. He was there with him at Syracuse. We had some real good information on the kid. We think he’s got a chance to be a real good punter in the National Football League and that’s why we took him. It’s going to be a competitive situation because in my opinion—I got up here a few times last year and people were railing on [P] Britton [Colquitt], but I can tell you one thing, there wasn’t a better guy in the playoffs. I can promise you that. He helped us win games in the playoffs. It’s going to be a heck of a competition.”

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The Broncos will have a new battery between long snapper and punter, no matter which punter they choose because of Aaron Brewer’s departure this offseason. They will also potentially have a new place-holder on field goals. If that player is no longer Britton Colquitt, you’d better believe Brandon McManus is going to need to get to work with Dixon right away.

Special teams was incredibly underrated in Denver last year. I’m not saying it was the best in the NFL — it wasn’t — but it was underrated. How many bad snaps were there last year? How many bad holds? We almost take for granted one of the most pressure-packed situations in football, which involves some highly skilled guys that are hired to do one specific thing really well.

The special teams standard in Denver is really high, and the drafting of a punter combined with Britton Colquitt’s salary would seem to indicate to me that the writing is on the wall. The Broncos wanted to upgrade, and they’re going to give the young kid a chance to be just that.