Denver Broncos Training Camp 2009 - A Progress Report

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Training Camp in the National Football League may seem like a long time, but in reality it lasts 21 days - 3 weeks.  27 total workouts are scheduled.  When this morning's practice concludes, the Broncos will be 1/3 of the way done with this year's training camp (Workout #9).  It's a good time to take a look at some things, as well as dispel any misconceptions, at least in my view.

THE GOOD

Xt Peyton Hillis - While many in the MSM thought Hillis could be in trouble when the Broncos signed all the RB free agents, then drafted Knowshon Moreno, those of us here at MHR knew better.  We knew that Hillis was way too versatile for the Broncos just to dump off the roster.  If anything, the Patriots have always been about versatility, and Hillis might be the most versatile player on the roster.  Hillis had to prove he was healthy, however, to really grab hold of a roster spot.  Hillis has done that and MUCH more.  Hillis has shown the best hands of anyone at camp, he has played a physical style of football that Josh McDaniels wants from his football team, and most importantly, he can play multiple positions effectively.   As Camp has gone on, Hillis has gotten more and more time in single-back sets.  Josh McDaniels is going to find a way to get the ball to #22.

Mckinley_kenny_mug09_mediumKenny McKinley - Not much attention was paid to McKinley when he was drafted in the 5th round of the 2009 Draft, but people weren't very fond of the Eddie Royal selection in the 2nd round in 2008 (well, some at MHR liked it).  I bring up Royal because McKinley might just be 2009's version of Royal.  So far this camp McKinley has been a solid route runner and shown great hands.  He can also return punts and kicks, or play as a gunner on punt coverage.  In other words, McKinley has shown the versatility that is going to become a staple of the Broncos roster.  With Marshall, Royal, Stokley, Gaffney, et al, the Broncos are putting together a deep receiving corps.

XtJack Williams - When the Broncos traded up to draft Alphonso Smith in the 2nd round, everyone assumed Smith would take hold of the nickel-corner position.  Someone forgot to tell Jack Williams, a 4th-rounder out of Kent State in 2008.  Williams is a lot like Smith, and so far has held Smith to special teams duty.  Williams is still rough around the edges but he is aggressive and has a knack for getting to the football.  

As the pre-season rolls along, especially the games, I'll add a "Not-so-Good" section.  Right now, however, it is pointless to do because we don't know the focus of the drills and just what the coaching staff is expecting the players to do.  I do have a couple random thoughts -


Milehighreport_small_medium Don't put much weight into news you hear about a player throwing interceptions, or a player picking off a pass.  Many of these situational drills are played in a vacuum.  For instance, you heard a lot about Jack Williams taking a pass 99-yards for a TD.  It happened during a 2-minute drill in which no runs were allowed.  We also have no idea if Kyle Orton was told to only look at his #1 receiver, or if Orton was not permitted to check down.  Those things happen all the time. 

An interception, or great play by the offense or defense really says little at this time of year.  These guys are learning a new offense, and just like hitters being ahead of pitchers early in a baseball season, the defenses are usually ahead of the offenses during Training Camp.  In other words, it is nice to know but doesn't concern or excite me either way.

Milehighreport_small_mediumYou'll hear a lot that the Broncos did nothing to address their Front-7.  Something to keep in mind:  while there weren't any big name free agents or high draft picks added to the group, Josh McDaniels has quietly added something pretty important to his defense - size. 

In 2008, with the Broncos in a 4-3 defense, the starters (Ekuban, Robertson, Thomas, Dumervil) averaged 287 pounds along the line, 236 pounds at linebacker (Bailey, Williams, Webster).  They were predicated on speed, but ultimately, because of the lack of size and power up front, the unit was pushed around, especially in the run game.

Heading into 2009, the Broncos added bulk to both units.  Along the D-line, the starting unit averages 302 pounds (+15 with McBean, Thomas, Peterson), while the linebackers average 256 pounds (+20 with Dumervil, Davis, Williams, Ayers).  Sure, they have given up some speed with the likes of Andra Davis, but the extra size should help, especially in the running game.

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