Another workout is in the books, and like the previous 3 practices the Broncos went long and worked hard. One player (Vernon Fox) returned to the practice field while another (Brandon Marshall) limped off. Such is part of the daily grind at an NFL Training Camp.
One thing I have noticed, among the several things this camp has done differently compared to 2008, is the extended warm-up and cool-down session at the beginning and end of practice. While it may seem like common sense, and for that matter no big deal, we all remember that the Broncos lost a ton of man-games to injury last season, may of which were muscle-related.
Sure, the Broncos stretched a bit before practice last year, and who knows how much is done in the locker room? But McDaniels seems to be taking it to a different level by taking it seriously. The proper way to warm up is to get your heart rate up FIRST, then stretch your muscles. The Broncos do this by spending 10 minutes in light group drills, followed by 15 minutes of stretching. That never happened last year.
At the end of practice, the Broncos cool down with similar group drills before heading to the locker room. This 30 minutes or so dedicated to taking care of the muscles should very well pay off in the long run for the team and shows McDaniels gets IT on a lot of different levels.
Now, some observations from this morning's workout...Prior to limping off this field, Brandon Marshall looked very happy and content, spending time dancing and throwing teammates' helmets, specifically Tyler Polumbus and Ben Hamilton, during the stretching. I had a feeling that once the team was back on the field, and the vets were able to get in his ear, that Marshall would do the right thing. Let's hope the injury isn't too serious.
Fundamentals were once again the name of the game as the team spent time on open-field tackling, shedding blocks and finding the ball, and DBs going up for interceptions at the highest point. It's pretty easy to understand - what a team lacks in talent it can make up for with proper technique and positioning.
Vernon Fox returned, as mentioned above, with his ankle heavily wrapped. He was also wearing the Orange Shirt of Protection, meaning to limit contact. He was limping a bit, but lasted the whole practice. I think this proves again that guys know they need to be on the field to get playing time, and every job is open and available.
One segment, properly entitled "Turnovers/Ball Security" had the DBs working on recovering fumbles near the sidelines. If they couldn't gain possession, they had to keep the ball in bounds. Meanwhile, the Running Backs were running through a crowd which was trying to slap the ball away. This leads back to a point I have been talking about all week - attention to detail.
At different times during practice, the offense was on one field, the defense on another. They were still running through plays, however, with offensive players playing defense, and defensive players playing offense, again within their own groups. What is the significance of this, you ask? It all goes back to fundamentals. If I, as an offensive player, know a little bit about what a defense does, and how it operates, I am going to be that much better for it. Same thing on the other side. Remember, Josh McDaniels started out as a defensive assistant - as all of Bill Belichick's young coaches do. He understands that knowledge is power, and knowing the responsibility of all 22 players on the field can only help you against your opponent.
Once again, before getting dinged, Brandon Marshall was back to his old self, throwing helpless defensive backs around like rag-dolls. There really is no stopping him, when he puts his mind and body to it.
For all those who think Brian Dawkins is nothing more than a glorified linebacker, you are wrong. The guy can still get from point A to point B in a hurry. At this point, Dawkins has the advantage of experience, meaning he doesn't have to work as hard to make plays because he is in the right position. Just like John Lynch in his latter days.
The offense struggled at times today, with all 3 quarterbacks having their toughest day yet. There were some points that there seemed to be some miscommunication between the quarterback and receivers, and at other times Chris Simms and Kyle Orton simply held onto the ball too long. This was especially evident during 2-minute work when the offense, with 1:40 to go, down 2, no timeouts, suffered a sack (by Elvis), a throwaway (would have been a sack if they were playing at full speed), and an incompletion. All this is to be expected, however, as the offense gets the grasp of a new playbook.
Alphonso Smith had an interception, baiting Tom Brandstater on his first pass of the day.
One general observation about the defense; it seems their pre-snap positioning is a lot better. It looks like they know what they are trying to accomplish and are more confident in what they are trying to do. Good or bad, Mike Nolan is going to have a system and game plan that isn't going to change week to week. That will help A LOT as the season moves along.
Feel free to give your thoughts and observations as well....