“It's the same as when you put together a staff,” Broncos coach John Fox told the Denver Post, referring to work ethic. “You want players that make plays.”
Beal, the 2010 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, made a ton of plays for the Sooners, highlighted by 29.5 sacks.
The Carrollton, Texas, product had a good shot making the roster a year ago after he recorded two sacks in a preseason game against Chicago. Everything changed the final preseason game, when he injured his left knee just before halftime on a mad-dash play after a receiver fumbled.
“If you hurt your knee you'd rather hurt your MCL than your ACL,” Beal said. “It's only a six-week injury but they decided to put me on IR. It was painful to hear that. That wasn't my goal. I wanted to play, but it is what it is. It was just unfortunate.”
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While watching the Broncos go on a late-season run, Beal used the down time to study film and hit the weight room. When Beal left OU he weighed 265. He now weighs 280 and is stronger and faster.
“My first year here, I put on the weight they wanted me to put on,” Beal said. “I've always been a little undersized, but I'm leaner and quicker. I've dropped my body fat by eight percent. I'm in the best shape I've ever been.”
Film study is Beal's strength. OU teammates swore Beal knew more about his opponents' tendencies than they knew about themselves.
“While I was out, I watched everything,” Beal said. “I studied other teams' offensive lines. I studied the top pass rushers in the league. It's helped me tremendously.”
Denver (13-3) was the AFC's top playoff seed last season. The Broncos were riding an 11-game winning streak entering the playoffs, but lost 38-35 in a double-overtime classic to Baltimore when Denver free safety Rahim Moore was burned late in regulation.
Las Vegas oddsmakers have made the Broncos the preseason favorite to win the Super Bowl. Denver lost some key pieces, but signed Phillips and former Heritage Hall star Wes Welker, an elite slot receiver, another weapon for future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning.
Can the defense do its part? Will Beal play a key role on that defense?
“We're all excited but we have to work hard every day to still be there in February,” Beal said. “But if we put in the work it's exciting to think we have a chance to be even better than we were last year.”