The last day of the Denver Broncos 2013 Training Camp has arrived. It is bittersweet to be sure, but all good things come to an end. Looking on the bright side, it means the regular season is that much closer. However, there are 3 more preseason games of player evaluation before the August 27th cut down date and the August 31st final 53 are named.
It’s “Bring your Dad to Camp” day for me, so I have company on the drive down to Dove Valley from Colorado Springs. My vantage point for today is the 50 yard line. The first player out for this practice is Ben Garland and he is in Full Pads. The weather couldn’t be better. I see the JUG’s machine is set up at the 30 yard line over to my right and it starts launching simulated Kickoffs at C. J. Anderson to set the range. The HORN sounds a few minutes later and the last Camp practice begins.
Special Teams Kick Return drills start the day off. A Kick Returner works with a two-man wedge and a lead blocker out to the 35 yard line. Trindon Holliday, Bubba Caldwell, Kemonte’ Bateman, Mike Adams and Omar Bolden take turns fielding Kickoffs. I see that Von Miller is not present and Knowshon Moreno, Jeremiah Johnson, Greg Orton, Quincy McDuffie and Lamaar Thomas are in sweats on the sideline. HORN.
Walkthroughs begin and last 20 minutes. Then the stretching runs for 10 minutes as the crowd enjoys participating along with the players. HORN.
From there, the players run straight into 11 on 11’s. Peyton Manning’s first throw is a deep incomplete to Eric Decker. Wes Welker makes a nice catch and Demaryius Thomas eats up yardage on a Bubble Screen. After a Ronnie Hillman run gets 4 yards, Peyton throws complete to Demaryius once more and then the second unit goes to work. Brock Osweiler hits Bubba Caldwell and then Montee Ball carries for 5 yards. A quick slant is completed to Caldwell and then Montee runs another 5 yards. After connecting with Gerell Robinson, Osweiler has a pass drop incomplete to Bubba Caldwell. HORN.
The players run over to their Individual position drills for the next 20 minutes. When the passing drills begin with the Quarterbacks throwing to the Running Backs, Tight Ends and Wide Receivers, Peyton Manning has praise for Ronnie Hillman’s route running and corrects Julius Thomas on what he wants in a particular pass route. HORN.
11 on 11’s with the ball spotted at the 25 yard line and the Offense moving toward midfield. Ronnie Hillman gains 2 yards and then Peyton Manning throws a play action pass to Demaryius Thomas for 10 yards as the Offense moves downfield. Eric Decker runs an End around for about 5 yards and then Montee Ball rushes for 4 yards. Montee gets another carry, this time for six yards as Paul Cornick steps in as an extra Tackle in a Jumbo set. The second teamers rotate in and Lance Ball runs for 5 yards. Osweiler draws the Defense Offsides and then hits Tavarres King at the sideline for 15 yards on the next play. C. J. Anderson runs for a couple yards and then the “3’s” are up. Lance Ball loses a yard on the first play and then gets 2 on the next. Zac Dysert dumps a pass off to C. J. Anderson and then Trindon Holliday exploits a hole up the middle and runs for 5 plus yards. Anderson gets a carry for 4 yards. HORN.
The ball is placed at the 20 yard line for the Offense to move towards midfield. More 11 on 11’s begin with the referees, Chain Gang and play clock in effect. Only now, crowd noise is piped in to simulate the cacophony that abounds at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. It actually sounds like Airport noise with a few air horns going off intermittently. Heck, if I would have known, I would have brought a Vuvuzela from home.
Anyway, Peyton Manning is directing the Offense using hand signals and the first play is a Screen to Julius Thomas that goes for some nice yardage. He gets some great downfield blocking by Manny Ramirez in particular, who is right there with him 25 yards down the field. Eric Decker catches Peyton’s next pass and then Wes Welker grabs a pair before Manning goes over the top to Demaryius Thomas with Champ Bailey defending. After another pass to Julius Thomas, Trindon Holliday takes a toss left and gets 4-5 yards.
The “2’s” get their chance to work with the artificial crowd noise next. On their first play, Jeremy Beal gets to Brock for what would have been a sure Sack. Osweiler throws complete to Jacob Tamme anyway. Montee Ball pushes the pile for 10 impressive yards to the pleasure of Eric Studesville who always hounds the Running Backs to do two things: “Stay up” and “Finish.” Osweiler dumps off a pass to Montee over the middle, then hits Gerell Robinson on a Bubble Screen. Tavarres King makes a nice sideline catch on a good throw by Brock. Jeremy Beal is getting consistent pressure during this whole series. Zac Dysert comes in and throws a pass for D’Angelo Peterson, who drops it. Then he dumps a pass off to Lance Ball. Dysert decides to tuck it and run for about 10 yards on the last rep. HORN.
Special Teams Kick return drill continue as they did at the onset of practice, with the two-man wedge and a lead blocker. Trindon Holliday, Bubba Caldwell, Kemonte’ Bateman, Mike Adams, Omar Bolden and C.J. Anderson all field Kickoffs from the JUG’s machine. They do a live drill against the “Red Hats” and Holliday jets out to the 40 yard line before coasting on the play. HORN.
The ball is spotted at the 15 yard line for the Offense to move away from the End Zone. More 11 on 11’s. Manning hits Ronnie Hillman on a flare. Then Hillman rushes for 6 yards. A play action pass is complete to Eric Decker and then Montee Ball picks up 7 yards on another fine carry. Peyton goes deep for Eric Decker with Wesley Woodyard guarding him, but it is just long and goes incomplete. C. J. Anderson rushes twice, for 5 and 3 yards and then is the recipient of a dump off pass from Osweiler. Brock connects with Jacob Hester on a swing pass and then has his next attempt tipped away. Hester runs for 5 more yards. HORN.
The Line of Scrimmage is just outside the Red Zone at the 25 and the artificial crowd noise begins again. On the first play, Manning has to call Timeout before the clock expires because he can’t get Ronnie Hillman located where he wants. Ronnie is lined up out wide and doesn’t seem to understand the signal. So they huddle up and get it straightened out. Manning throws a bit high for the diminutive Wes Welker and it goes through his hands incomplete. I don’t think I’ve seen too many of those occur this Camp, so this gets a raised eyebrow from me. A quick Screen to Ronnie Hillman gets 12 yards and then Peyton hits Eric Decker on a crossing route to score from the 10 yard line. The next pass is a quick out to Decker, who scores once again. They move into the 2-point conversion drill and Montee Ball comes up a yard short on the first attempt. Manning has to call another Timeout and when they get back together for a new play, Champ Bailey picks off a pass intended for Decker.
The second string Offense moves in and Brock Osweiler gets the Defense to jump Offsides on the first play. Pretty impressive with all the simulated noise going on. Steven Johnson is there to Sack Brock on the next play. Osweiler then throws a Fade in the End Zone for Gerell Robinson, but it is incomplete. Tavarres King gets a catch and when Osweiler goes to him a second time, Mario Butler should have Intercepted the ball but Tavarres successfully breaks up the play. Brock hits Trindon Holliday for a Touchdown and then the 3rd unit rotates in. Zac Dysert throws a Touchdown pass to Trindon Holliday and a player goes down. After a minute, coach Fox signals to blow the HORN and they move to the next segment.
The injured player turns out to be C.J. Anderson, who gets carted off the field and then has help to the locker room. He isn’t putting any weight on one leg and that doesn’t bode well. Hopefully there is a better news update by the time you are reading this. It’s a tough break either way for Anderson, since he’s been having a very good Camp.
Peyton Manning has to throw it away because of pressure by the Defense. Then he tries to hook up with Wes Welker, but Duke Ihenacho breaks up the pass. Demaryius Thomas takes the ball on an End Around, but Robert Ayers is there to meet him in the backfield just as he is about to turn the corner. Danny Trevathan blitzes and is there for a Sack on the next play and the pass is broken up by Duke Ihenacho again. Peyton tucks the ball and runs down the field on the following play and on the last rep, he hits Bubba Caldwell.
The 2nd unit steps in and Montee Ball runs for 4 yards. Osweiler completes a pass to Tavarres King, who makes a terrific sideline catch. Lance Ball carries the ball for 2 yards. After an incomplete pass intended for Gerell Robinson, Jeremy Beal gets a Sack on the tall Quarterback, who throws incomplete as the pass is broken up by Kayvon Webster. Zac Dysert comes in with the third string and hands the ball off to Lance Ball, who gets some good yardage. After a Dysert completion to Gerell Robinson, the HORN sounds and the team takes a short water break as the JUG’s machine is set up at the 30 yard line.
Another Special Teams segment begins with the Kick Return unit going against the “Red Hats.” Matt Prater is out there lining up with the Crimson capped practice team and simulates Kickoffs with the JUG’s machine launching missiles. Every once in awhile, Matt goes ahead and kicks a grounder to see if the up men are paying attention. They are, as first Danny Trevathan covers one and then Steven Johnson falls on the other one. I can see NASCAR driver Kurt Busch talking on the sideline between fields with coach John Fox, who seems oblivious to the Special Teams play on the field. HORN.
The piped in crowd noise starts up again for this situational drill. 1:35 on the clock, down by 5 and one Timeout from the far 40 yard line. The Offense needs a Touchdown. The first play is a Manning completion to Eric Decker. Peyton throws away the next ball because Shaun Phillips and Robert Ayers nearly make a sandwich out of him. Manning gets knocked to the ground by his own linemen as it is. After a 20 yard strike to Wes Welker, Peyton spikes the ball to stop the clock with 50 ticks remaining at the 32 yard line. After a short pass to Demaryius Thomas, Manning tries to hit Thomas in the End Zone, but overthrows Demaryius. on 4th and 4, Ronnie Hillman picks up 2 yards. Turnover on downs.
The situation is reset for the 2nd unit and Osweiler hits Gerell Robinson for 7 yards. The next pass goes to Tavarres King for the 1st down. Another pass to Tavarres gets 8 yards and Brock uses his Timeout. 42.1 seconds left with the ball at the 46 yard line. Lerentee McCray was there for the Sack, but Osweiler throws two consecutive passes to Gerell Robinson. After an incomplete for Bubba Caldwell, Brock once again hits Gerell Robinson, who steps out of bounds at the 12 yard line with 8.3 seconds left. The play clock runs out, but I’m the only one who seems to notice. Osweiler hits Gerell Robinson in the End Zone for the required Touchdown.
The 2nd string stays on the field and they attempt a 2-point conversion. Brock Osweiler hits Gerell once more and it’s good. The ball is moved out to the 40 yard line for a Hail Mary drill. Peyton Manning hits Ronnie Hillman down the middle of the field, but the Running Back comes up about 5 yards short of the End Zone. Brock’s attempt is batted down by the Defense in the End Zone and the final HORN of 2013 Training Camp blows.
I hope there is good news regarding C. J. Anderson. He was destined to supplant Lance Ball (in my opinion) for the last Running Back spot. After the game tape he showed against the 49ers and the Camp he’s had, there is no way he could be stashed on the Practice Squad without being poached. If his injury is bad enough, he will end up on the Reserve/Injured list and stay with the Broncos that way.
Still, with all things considered, it was a good Training Camp. Yes there were injuries. There are always injuries in this contact sport. But from what I saw this month in Dove Valley, the 2013 Broncos can and will overcome the injuries so far and even work their way through Von Miller’s impending suspension, whether it happens or not. With no excuses offered, the next man will stand up.
– Kaptain Kirk