A few friends and I are camped out at the 48 yard line today at Broncos Training Camp. I showed up extra extra early just to get a decent parking spot because it’s the weekend. Past experience has proven Saturday and Sunday practices packed to capacity. I’m excited to see the guys in full pads this morning and the team doesn’t let me down. The Broncos Front Office has brought in a very competitive group this year, with more depth than ever. I will repeat my mantra that there will be some good players cut come September.
It is a sunny and warm day at the Paul D. Bowlen Memorial Broncos Centre, otherwise known as the Dove Valley Training Complex. The JUG’s machine is set up at the 30 yard line off to my right and will shortly deliver simulated Punts during the Special Teams drills that generally begin the days events. Peyton Manning emerges early from the Locker room and wanders over to the VIP tent to sign a few autographs. The crowd eagerly tries to entice Manning over to the sideline, but their strategy only elicits a gracious wave hello. That seems to subdue the fans for awhile. Tavarres King is the next man out and he begins to warm up. Trindon Holliday trots out to a warm greeting by the spectators and positions himself to field punt offerings from the JUG’s machine. Wes Welker, Quincy McDuffie, Tony Carter all take turns shagging punts, while the Defensive Line is during drills around trash barrels posing as Offensive Linemen. Shortly after that, the Special Teams unit works one-on-one drills on “Getting Off” the line on Punts. HORN.
The first segment consists of 11 on 11 action. The Defense is in the Nickel package with Von Miller, Kevin Vickerson, Derek Wolfe and Robert Ayers on the Line. Sylvester Williams and Terrance Knighton rotate in at Defensive Tackle like they did yesterday. I see Ryan Clady at Left Tackle to begin practice, which is good news. The coaches are limiting his reps for at least a week and so Chris Clark rotates in for the majority. Peyton Manning completes passes to Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Eric Decker and it’s just after this that Clark relieves Clady. Joel Dreessen, Decker and Jacob Tamme each get a reception. I see the second Units working over at the opposite field and Philip Blake subs in for Louis Vasquez at Right Guard. One thing that stood out during this set of plays, is Zane Beadles pulling from his Left Guard spot all the way over on the right to pick up Von Miller, who is rushing from the Left Defensive End spot. You can’t tell me Zane’s footwork hasn’t improved. He is already a terrific downfield blocker. If you don’t believe me, just go back and re watch the Overtime catch by Demaryius Thomas when the Broncos beat the Steelers. Beadles is right there at the 2 yard line when DT scores.
It appears that Adam Gase is installing more of the playbook because the Offense is going to the Huddle and discussing things with their Offensive Coordinator. A few plays later, Peyton Manning barks out, “Brown! Richard! Jose! Hurry,Hurry.” HORN.
Time to stretch. The crowd joins the players in to stretch en masse, all the while cheering encouragement to their favorites. I can see that Tight End Lucas Reed is the only player not practicing and I later learn that he has been released with an injury settlement. There is also a new Defensive Back on the field today, No. 23 and I am determined to find out who he is. The roster is around 86-87 players, so there is room for a few tryouts.
As the players huddle up to “break it down,” the fans rise and clap along with the players. HORN.
The players break off into their individual position drills. The Running Backs are hitting the Blocking sled after running hurdles.Receivers coach Tyke Tolbert mixes up the passing drills from yesterday, keeping it fresh for his charges. He has a pair of players line up with blocking pads to hit the Receiver making a catch. Lamaar Thomas fumbles a catch and has to do it over again. But this time, unbeknownst to him, the two guys with the blocking pads move forward a couple of yards and hit him just before the catch, knocking him for a loop. “Welcome to the Training Camp, rookie!” moment. Lamaar takes being “Punk’d” in stride, but I’m betting he’ll be looking for a little locker room revenge behind the scenes.
The Quarterbacks start off with drop back footwork drills and that progresses into handoff drills along with the Running Backs and using the “Lane mats” for guidance. (The Running Lane Mat is a 4” strip that designates where the running lanes are, as opposed to where the Linemen are positioned). With 10 minutes left in this segment, the Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers come together for some work. HORN.
It’s now time for my favorite Camp battle, the Wide Receiver/Cornerback one-on-one drills. Right off the bat, on the far side of the field Bubba Caldwell gets past his man for a long Touchdown catch. Quincy McDuffie just misses a deep catch to my right on the near side of the field. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is called for Pass Interference on the play by the referees that had previously gone unnoticed this morning.
Andre Caldwell beats Omar Bolden, but the pass is overthrown. Then Trindon Holliday jukes Mario Butler out of his jock and makes a nice catch on a comeback, then turns it upfield past the sprawling Butler. Then, Wes Welker, as he is blanketed by Chris Harris, makes a nice grab just off the turf, the only place Harris couldn’t cover. A great play on one of the best Camp matchups this year. Over to the left, my attention is drawn to one-on-one drills where Running Backs and Tight Ends are picking up Linebackers and Defensive Ends (respectively) in a pass rush/blocking drill. The sound of pads clashing is what caught my notice, but each player group was getting into it. Helmets were flying off and players were getting chippy. As I stated earlier, this is a very competitive Camp. Returning to the passing drill, Tavarres King is guilty of a push off against Mario Butler, Rahim Moore gets a pick in front of Lamaar Thomas and the youngster draws a raucous cheer from the crowd. It’s nice to see that some fans have his back. Von Miller has received unanimous support as well. David Bruton breaks up a last pass and there’s the HORN.
The play clock, chains and referees are are in effect as another 11 on 11 set begins. Time to run the ball. Ronnie Hillman gets the first carry and takes it 4 yards. He gets stuffed at the line on the following play and David Bruton strips the ball out. Montee Ball runs to the right, behind a pulling Chris Clark for a small gain. Peyton Manning completes a nice pass to Demaryius Thomas just over the outstretched leap of Champ Bailey at the sideline. DT turns it up and scampers for the score. Montee Ball gets another couple yards and then it’s time for the second unit to go to work.
Knowshon Moreno gains about 5 yards and then Brock Osweiler draws Shaun Phillips offside, muffs the snap, then picks the ball up and completes a pass to Andre Caldwell. Moreno earns another 5 yards, breaking the initial stop and grinding for extra yardage. Jacob Hester rumbles for a couple hard earned yards, then Jeremiah Johnson turns the corner off the left side and goes 15-plus yards. Johnson gets two more additional carries, gaining 5 and 7 yards respectively. Lance Ball gets a yard up the middle. Zac Dysert and the “3’s” get a few reps. Dysert completes a pass to Kemonte’ Bateman, hands off to Trindon Holliday for a couple of yards and then the first scrum breaks out, only to be blunted by the HORN.
7 on 7’s begin with Manning nearly getting picked by Rahim Moore, then denied by DR-C before completing a pass to Jacob Tamme. Osweiler trots out and connects twice with Greg Orton and then three times with Gerell Robinson. Dysert hits Bateman and then the HORN blows, signaling the end of the segment.
After getting some water, the Special Teams resume fielding punts and Getting Off the line of scrimmage and into coverage lanes. Welker, Holliday, McDuffie and Decker are back fielding punts from the JUG’s machine. This goes on for a good 10 minutes before the next HORN.
11 on 11’s again. After throwing an incomplete pass to Demaryius Thomas, Manning hands off to Hillman, who gains 10 yards around the right side. Peyton’s next pass, intended for Eric Decker, is broken up by D R-C as Von Miller and Robert Ayers bring the bookend pressure. Manning throws a deep pass for Decker, but Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has lane position, preventing Eric from moving inside for a chance at an overthrown ball.
Brock Osweiler throws a grounded ball due to Jeremiah Johnson missing his pass block. Brock throws a duck to the sideline, intended for Caldwell, but Omar Bolden breaks up the play. Osweiler then hits Caldwell underneath. Then Kevin Vickerson makes contact with the QB and is about to drive him into the ground but holds up and prevents Brock from falling. As this is going on, Duke Ihenacho picks off the pass and runs it all the way back. The “Nacho” man then gives the ball to a young fan.
Zac Dysert throws behind Trindon Holliday incomplete and then completes a dump off to Lance Ball, who is absolutely drilled by Steven Johnson for no gain. The Defense comes on an all-out blitz and Dysert gets happy feet, but manages to throw the ball away. Zac’s next attempt is batted at the line of scrimmage. HORN.
The units switch sides and 7 on 7’s begin the next segment. Peyton passes for Julius Thomas, who is denied by Nate Irving. Then Manning and Decker connect on a post down the middle for a nice gain. The “Ones” finish their reps as Peyton completes a pass to Demaryius Thomas.
Osweiler completes a quick side out to Jacob Hester, but is stuffed at the line. Dysert hits McDuffie and then Mario Butler breaks up the next attempt. Zac’s next pass is high, but Virgil Green goes up and snags it for a beautiful catch. Dysert’s next attempt falls incomplete. HORN.
Switching sides, another round of 11 on 11’s begins with Robert Ayers nearly intercepting a Manning pass. Peyton’s next pass is complete to Wes Welker. Brock’s first pass goes incomplete and then Danny Trevathan pounds Montee Ball after the rookie catches a swing pass. Osweiler’s next attempt goes into the seats as a souvenir. Jeremiah Johnson takes a late checkdown pass and runs down the field. Dysert hits Jacob Hester and then Quincy McDuffie, who holds on after a good hit by Quentin Jammer, who is wearing the previously unknown number 23 jersey. Zac’s next pass goes out of the reach of Virgil Green.
The first unit is back on the field and Manning handsoff to Montee Ball for a couple of yards. Peyton rolls out to left and hits Jacob Tamme, then hits Demaryius Thomas. Running Backs coach Eric Studesville high five’s Montee Ball for a good pickup block on the play. Osweiler hands the ball off to Ronnie Hillman, who is stuffed at the line by Malik Jackson. Rahim Moore breaks up the next pass, then Brock overthrows Knowshon Moreno coming out of the backfield. Dysert completes a pass to Lamaar Thomas and I see undrafted rookie Defensive Lineman Lanston Tanyi getting good pressure with his pass rush. Zac’s next two tries are overthrown balls. HORN.
After a squirt of water, the Special Teams Punting Unit lines up. The return unit against the “Red Hats.” Britton Colquitt punts to Trindon Holliday and then Ryan Doerr punts back the other direction to Quincy McDuffie. Tony Carter, Aaron Hester, Kayvon Webster, Quentin Jammer and Rahim Moore work as Gunners on my side of the field. HORN.
The last segment of the day is another 11 on 11 drill. Manning to Tamme on a sideline out. Hillman rushes for 3 yards and then Demaryius Thomas gets a catch. Osweiler is in and hands off to Montee Ball for 3 yards. Brock completes passes to Greg Orton and Montee Ball coming out of the backfield. Osweiler can’t connect with Tavarres King. Then Dysert comes in and hits Trindon Holliday and Kemonte’ Bateman after Lance Ball carries for 4 yards. The last attempt to Kemonte’ Bateman falls incomplete and there’s the final HORN.
Due to the larger crowd, quite a few players were out signing autographs today. It began with the Cornerbacks, but then some Offensive and Defensive Linemen came over, along with Peyton Manning. I was able to get Kayvon Webster to sign a hat, but just missed Champ Bailey, who was all the way on the opposite end of the field. Tackle Vinston Painter and Mitch Unrein signed another hat for me and the final one came courtesy of Chris Kuper, who told me that he was healing well.
Another pleasant day spent at Dove Valley.
– Kaptain Kirk