In the afternoon of day two of training camp an event occurred which perhaps best defines the 2009 edition of the Denver Broncos. Coach McDaniel was supervising a one-on-one tackling drill. A running back would run directly at a linebacker or defensive lineman defender. The running back was allowed one "move". The defender’s assignment was simply to tackle him. Most defenders charged the running back with the anticipation of a last-second correction to complete the tackle and wrap up the running back.
After a few nifty moves by Buckhalter and Jordan, a spectacular spin by Torain and some pretty aggressive tackling, Hillis was lined up to go against Crowder. In the style we have become to expect from Hillis he carried the ball firmly with both hands and ran straight ahead. The two behemoths rushed toward each other at full speed. At the last second, rather than putting on an elusive move, Hillis merely dropped his shoulder and plowed directly into Crowder. The noise of the impact echoed through out the entire complex. Players on adjacent fields stopped to stare. Hillis flattened Crowder and ran over him. Hillis, while hit hard, was able to stumble forward for additional yardage. Crowder lay in a heap.
In defense of Crowder, who I think is doing a magnificent job of converting from DE to OLB, it must be pointed out that all of the other running backs had attempted to juke away from the tackle. Only Hillis tried to run over the defender. And this is my point. The 2009 edition of the Denver Broncos may not be flashy or flamboyant. They may not put up 35+ points a game. They may have some weaknesses on defense which will allow other teams to score. But I will predict right now that every Bronco will give 100% on every play. They will face the opposition head-on and deliver crushing blows. After playing the Broncos other teams will say "Damn, I’m glad that game is over." Our AFC West competitors, when faced with the second meeting will say "Oh crap, we have to face those guys again." I will further predict that the 3-41 blowout losses are behind us. This is a well-conditioned team that does not give up and will own the fourth quarter. This is a team steeped in fundamentals.
I make these predictions only partially on the basis of the Hillis hit. It was typical of many plays I observed during the four days I watched camp. I make the predictions just as much on the basis of Crowder’s response. For you see, after getting some oxygen back in his lungs and lining up for the next rotation through the line, Crowder said, "He got me that time, we will see what happens next time". We are still early in training camp, but this is already a team we can be proud of.
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