By Cecil Lammey
|Denver Broncos Vice President of Public Relations Jim Saccomano joined ESPN Denver's Cecil Lammey during the team's morning training camp session Monday. (Photo by Johnny Hart/ESPN Denver)|
It’s that time of year again as the Denver Broncos have kicked off their training camp at Dove Valley. This is always my favorite time of year as we get to see the Broncos go through practice every day. I’ve watched this team in rookie minicamp, OTAs, and minicamp this offseason but none of that matches training camp. The Broncos have several position battles that will shake out over the next month. Training camp (plus the preseason) is where those battles are won.
Runner Up: Undrafted Free Agent RB C.J. Anderson broke a long run down the left sideline to finish practice.
No. 18 Peyton Manning: Manning missed on a deep throw to Demaryius Thomas. We have seen that about once per day. These overthrows should quiet any questions about Manning’s arm strength. He’s throwing with proper velocity and his spirals are looking good. Manning is deadly on underneath and intermediate routes. It’s a privilege to watch one of the best to ever play the position work his craft on a daily basis.
No. 17 Brock Osweiler: Several media members have commented to me how they love what Osweiler is showing in camp. His zip is outstanding and his mechanics have been cleaned up. Osweiler is still forcing some passes but he shows ultimate confidence in his arm. He is also showing good pass placement. Osweiler doesn’t just have “area code” accuracy. He’s putting the ball on the correct shoulder and leading his receivers properly to maximize run after the catch yards.
No. 2 Zac Dysert: Dysert’s struggles continued today. He was getting a few of his teammates beat up with passes that were high, behind, and generally off the mark. Mechanically he struggles with consistency. There are some who question whether or not he even makes the practice squad. However, he’s a favorite of the staff and that should help.
No. 8 Ryan Katz: He’s a camp arm and that’s about it. I’d like to see more but he’s not getting much work outside of individual drills.
No. 21 Ronnie Hillman: Hillman was getting stretched out during practice and the team held him out of 9-on-7 drills. He looked good as a runner when he returned to the field for 11-on-11 drills. His first carry back Hillman broke off the right side of the line for a 30+ yard run. He’s understanding his assignments better as a pass protector and has not been beat in pass pro so far this training camp. Hillman is also doing a better job of getting skinny inside when holes (and cutback lanes) aren’t there. His speed and explosion make any angle or any cutback (even reversing his field) possible. The defense even tried to get him to fumble after a spin move at the second level. Hillman is holding the ball tight with two hands and refused to let the ball go even though it was getting pulled at.
No. 38 Montee Ball: Ball got a little extra time with the first team as Hillman was held out of 9-on-7 drills. He did little to impress with the extra reps. Ball continues to dance behind the line of scrimmage and looks lost on the field. It’s a timing issue as he’s having to play/run/process at a higher speed than he ever was in college at Wisconsin. We’ll see if he can be more determined and better understand where he’s supposed to go later in training camp. He’s hesitant on inside run and is constantly getting swallowed up by the defense. Ball did have one run early in practice that went for about seven yards. I didn’t see him make any plays of note as a receiver today.
No. 27 Knowshon Moreno: Moreno had a standout day as a runner, receiver out of the backfield, and as a pass protector. He saved the day for QB Brock Osweiler with a key block on a pass to TE Virgil Green that went for about 15-yards. Moreno tried to bounce a run outside to the right but was swallowed up. He then tried to make an off tackle run to the left but DT Mitch Unrein was able to trip him up with a shoestring tackle. Moreno doesn’t make big runs but is showing good fight every day. He did fumble on a run to the left but ended up falling on the ball and recovering it himself.
No. 35 Lance Ball: Ball made it into my notebook with a run up the middle late in practice. The hole wasn’t there but he lowered his head to push for a couple of yards.
No. 37 Jeremiah Johnson: Johnson is good hitting the edge when the hole is there. He struggles when the lanes are plugged up. Johnson tried a spin move on an inside run that netted zero yards. He can make plays as a receiver out of the backfield so long as he is in space.
No. 39 C.J. Anderson: I liked when the Broncos picked up Anderson as an undrafted free agent earlier this year. He showed plenty of power in college and is a swift runner. However, he never showed the type of speed he did today on the run to close out practice. Anderson has a strong lower body, runs with good pad level and proper forward lean. On a run to the left he broke through on the edge and turned on the jets. He ran away from the defense and scored what would have been a 40-yard TD. Those runs have been limited to Ronnie Hillman, but today Anderson made a big play (and a big impression). Anderson also showed good leg drive near the goalline. If he continues to impress I say put him on the practice squad. I don’t think there’s enough room to fit him on the 53-man roster.
No. 22 Jacob Hester: It’s more of the same with Hester. He’ll line up in multiple positions and can make plays as a short yardage runner or receiver out of the backfield. I like the way he is working as a lead blocker in this zone blocking system. He sprung another big TD run by Ronnie Hillman today.
No. 88 Demaryius Thomas: There were no big plays from Thomas today. Manning overthrew him on a long pass that would have been a touchdown as Bey Bey had outrun the coverage. Thomas did a nice job of securing short passes and is making sure to clutch the ball before turning to run after the catch.
No. 83 Wes Welker: The professional ankle breaker continues to put in work. Every route looks the same and he does not tip off the defense as to which way he’s going to make his break. Thus, Welker is open on every play.
No. 87 Eric Decker: Decker’s strong hands are on display every day. Monday’s practice saw him secure more catches, and even contested catches with the DB all over him. Defending this Broncos’ passing game is going to be nigh impossible. Decker should be able to abuse single coverage all day long.
No. 11 Trindon Holliday: I didn’t take any notes on Holliday.
No. 12 Andre Caldwell: Caldwell returned to practice on Monday after missing the previous day due to a hamstring injury. He didn’t register any plays of note.
No. 15 Tavarres King: The rookie is continuing to turn heads in training camp.
No. 89 Greg Orton: Orton almost had the play of the day today. He caught a TD pass at the back of the end zone with two defenders draped all over him. After the play Orton dunked the football over the goal post. He’s catching most everything thrown his way in camp. Orton is making a strong push to win a spot on the 53-man roster. His routes look crisp and he has good burst in and out of his breaks.
No. 16 Quincy McDuffie: I like the way McDuffie changes direction without losing much speed. His route running needs to be cleaned up as he’ll lean whatever direction he’s going before making his break.
No. 10 Gerell Robinson: Robinson dropped a TD pass from Brock Osweiler in the back of the end zone. I’d like to see him get more seasoning on the practice squad as I don’t believe he’s done enough to make the final roster.
No. 13 Kemonte’ Bateman: I had no notes on Bateman today.
No. 19 Lamaar Thomas: I had no notes on Thomas today.
No. 84 Jacob Tamme: The notes I have on Tamme was when he was running with the second team. I like his crisp routes and he did a good job of finding soft spots in the zone.
No. 81 Joel Dreessen: I like the run after the catch ability Dreessen showed today. He’s more known for his blocking ability but had some wheels in the open field after a route over the middle. Manning hit him in stride and he picked up significant yardage with his legs.
No. 80 Julius Thomas: This was the first day Thomas didn’t have multiple standout plays. It wasn’t a bad day for Thomas by any means. He was getting open by using his frame to box out defenders. Thomas did a good job of looking in passes as well.
No. 85 Virgil Green: I didn’t get too many notes on Green today. I did note one drop late in practice on a pass that was put behind him by QB Zac Dysert. He hauled in a pass from QB Brock Osweiler that was placed away from the defense. As I’ve noted several times, Green is decent when he’s going to an open part of the field. He has difficulty making contested catches.
No. 82 Jake O’Connell: He dropped a couple of passes today and was hung out to dry by rookie QB Zac Dysert. O’Connell took a big hit when Dysert put up a pass that was off the mark.
No. 66 Manny Ramirez: Worked with the first-team and head coach John Fox cleared up who is the starter after practice. “Manny played a lot of football for us a year ago with the loss of [G] Chris Kuper as well as J.D. Walton, who are two people that are still on our football team that we are still nursing back to health. So, we feel decent where we are. We always hate losing people for the season, but we will march on.” Ramirez allowed too much pressure in the pit and lost out on power and speed moves to different Broncos defenders.
No. 54 C.J. Davis: Worked with the second team after missing practice yesterday due to an ankle injury. In the pit he was about .500 for wins and losses against the Broncos defense.
No. 64 Phillip Blake: He worked with the third-team and continued to struggle. In the pit Blake was regularly beat by the defender lining up against him.
No. 26 Rahim Moore:
Broncos Ring of Fame Center Tom Nalen said on The Locker Room that Moore was the best Safety on the team
. It’s true that Moore has been a standout player for most of camp.
No. 92 Sylvester Williams: During the pit Williams was a standout player. He quickly got around Left Guard Zane Beadles, showing good first step explosion. Later in the pit Williams put Center Philip Blake on roller skates and moved him with ease. Williams went down with a knee injury during practice. After the day was over head coach John Fox said the injury was not serious. “We are looking at it. It doesn’t appear to be super serious, but they all could be so we will keep you posted on exactly what it was.”
No. 95 Derek Wolfe: He returned from the ankle injury that cut Sunday’s practice short and was a standout player in the pit. Wolfe was able to get around Orlando Franklin with good acceleration.
No. 99 Kevin Vickerson: This was his first day of struggling in the pit. He had a good initial punch on Louis Vasquez but then was stopped in his tracks by the veteran Guard.
No. 94 Terrance Knighton: He was dominating once again in the pit. He was able to push around Center Manny Ramirez with ease.
No. 93 Jeremy Beal: In the pit he was able to get a push on Tackle Chris Clark. He’s not creative or overly athletic but showed good functional strength on that play.
No. 33 Duke Ihenacho: This kid is really making a name for himself at practice. He always finds a way to be around the football and is playing with the most energy/fire of anyone on the Broncos defense. Ihenacho zoomed into the backfield on a stretch play to deliver a big hit to RB Knowshon Moreno.
No. 47 Lerentee McCray: In the pit he tried a spin move to get around Guard Manase Foketi but it didn’t work.