CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- The Broncos began Phase 1 of their offseason conditioning program this week. They returned to Dove Valley as a humbled, hungry group. The Broncos have not posted back-to-back losing seasons since 1972.
"Just be accountable. You let last season go, but you have to learn from it. There's things we have to fix," said All-Pro linebacker Von Miller, whose stellar 2017 season was wasted without any other player providing consistent pressure on the quarterback. "I need to play better. Just across the board we have to get back to that winning culture. We have to win, and it starts with being accountable."
Any Broncos rebound starts with a new starting quarterback. Case Keenum is the man for the first time in his career. He no longer has neck pain from looking over his shoulder in Minnesota for four months. This is his team. His time. The Broncos are counting on him providing steady play -- they would love him to repeat last season's 22-touchdown, seven-interception performance -- and being a rudder in the locker room.
It requires little leap of imagination to see this team contending if Miller and Keenum play well. He has no choice, perhaps, but Miller believes in Keenum. He talked about the new quarterback like they were going to star in "Step Brothers 2" together on Tuesday.
Did they just become best friends?
"He’s a great leader. In 30 seconds of being around him, you can kind of tell what he's going to bring. He's going to be a great leader for us," said Miller before adding with a smirk. "I envision a whole bunch of magical moments between me and Case. Holding hands and dancing around the locker room. All we have to do now is get wins."
Keenum laughed when told of Miller's description. He said he was DFW -- down for whatever -- or implied it.
"I’m always down for some shenanigans," Keenum said. "I’m excited to get to know Von. Just the reputation that he has obviously. I’m excited. Locker rooms are always fun.”
April brings off-beat questions and light-hearted answers. There are no games for four months, no public failure, no injuries. The spring is the NFL's version of Febreze for disappointing teams.
The Broncos overhauled their coaching staff, leaving Vance Joseph more comfortable with new faces, but working to keep his job on a weekly basis this fall. They addressed multiple needs, adding Keenum, safety Su'a Cravens, right tackle Jared Veldheer, cornerback Tramaine Brock (who will brazenly wear No. 21) and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald.
But holes exist.
Keenum joins a team without an established third receiving target -- will it arrive through the draft or with Jake Butt in year two? -- and inexperience at running back. C.J. Anderson, coming off a career-high 1,007 rushing yards, represented a potential safety net for Keenum in pass protection and knowledge of the offense. The Broncos cut him Monday, leaving them looking in the draft for a running back to vie for the starting job with Devontae Booker and De'Angelo Henderson.
Does this mean Keenum must microwave his leadership role?
"I just want to get to know guys. How are you off the field? I try to build a relationship from there. Getting to know the person is more important," Keenum said. "I am going to stay consistent. That's what's gotten me here, and who I am. I will stay hungry. Nothing has ever been handed to me."
Keenum is considering hosting an off-site passing camp, something that drew rave reviews when Peyton Manning held the job in Denver. First, he's learning names. One thing at a time. Miller admitted he will hold a second annual pass rushing summit with some of the game's most talented stars and legends.
"We're still finalizing where we're going to do it, sponsors and all that stuff," Miller said. "I don't plan on letting it go anytime soon. It's a great event. Wherever you can get rookies in there with vets, with guys like DeMarcus (Ware), Bruce Smith and Warren Sapp, to share knowledge, it's a magical thing."
Part of the offseason makeover sits on the horizon. Another nip and tuck will come from the draft. The Broncos continue to keep an open mind with the fifth pick, doing their due diligence on quarterbacks. Josh Allen, Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, who toured the facility on Tuesday, and Josh Rosen remain on the radar.
Keenum said he didn't bump into Mayfield, and insisted he has no issue with the Broncos taking a quarterback with the fifth pick. Miller remained diplomatic as well. He trusts general manager John Elway. However, he named names, and no quarterback was among them, something I could not help but notice.
"We have a Hall of Fame quarterback leading the ship (in Elway). I have all the faith in them," said Miller, who pays attention to mock drafts. "Whatever happens, I am cool with it. If we take Saquon (Barkley), I am cool with it. If we take (Bradley) Chubb, I am cool with it. If we trade away, I am cool with whatever he does with that pick."