On a day when the Broncos gave some veterans a day off - Champ Bailey, Brian Dawkins and Brandon Stokley among them, rookies were able to get their crack at playing with the 1st or 2nd teams. Some were able to take advantage.
It was another sun-soaked Colorado morning as the Broncos took the field. On the radio this morning Josh McDaniels spoke of "10-12 players may not workout", in the end it was 10. D.J. Williams, Kenny McKinley, Chris Baker, Champ Bailey, Brian Dawkins, Brandon Stokley, Joe Mays, Josh Barrett, Knowshon Moreno, Correll Buckhalter all sat out, joining the three players that have been P.U.P all camp long - Darrell Reid, Jamal Williams and Ryan Clady.
I saw Williams, and he looks good. McDaniels said after practice that Jamal is getting close, even going so far to say that 'tomorrow could be D-Day for that'. It makes sense. Ronald Fields was seen leaving the practice field early. While not with a trainer, Fields was walking rather slowly.
As for the rest of the workout, it continued to follow a similar path. The defense, right now, is strong than the offense. There are good and bad moments for each, but as a general theme, the defense is dominating the play right now.The practices always start with the team broken into the positional groups. With action happening all over the two fields I tried to walk around a look at all the drills, just to get you all a feel for what is happening. In one area, the D-Linemen were working on fumble drills. I always enjoy the big guys rumbling along, trying to bend down a grab a rolling football.
At the same time, the defensive backs were working on a drill keeping a live ball from going out of bounds, with linebackers working on trying to strip the football from a would-be ball carrier. The drills are fast-paced and brisk, each one lasting a few minutes before the group goes onto the next thing.
On the other field, the quarterbacks were working with the wide receivers on throws into the end zone. It gave me a chance to see how each throws the football. A couple things became apparent rather quickly. Brady Quinn really throws a nice ball - especially on touch passes or fades. It is thrown with a tight spiral and falls right on target. Tim Tebow, on the other hand, really struggles when in the 'pocket', throwing across his body. That would make a bit of sense since he has such a long windup. He can't really get the extension and torque throwing to his right when not moving. Again, this drill is run without DBs, a line on either side, just guys running routes and balls being thrown, but when I watch a guy throw three straight passes to his right, short and into the ground from 20 yards away I figured I would let you know.
The team then went into some 11x11 drills, mostly for short-yardage running. Kolby Smith got plenty of carries early on during the workout. He doesn't have top-end speed, which might hold him back in the pseudo-competition, but I like him.
It is during these drills - short-yardage and running game - that the defense really shows it's strengths. We can look at it a couple ways - either we should feel pretty good about our defense right now, or wonder how we'll score more than 14 points per game. Now, some of that could be the fact we are playing with 3rd and 4th string running backs on the first team. No judgment can be made until all the starters are in there.
I will say this is the first time I really noticed Jarvis Green. He is going to be a nice pickup for the Broncos. A savvy veteran that knows how to be disruptive. Nothing flashy, but really annoying to an offense.
I was talking earlier about how nicely Brady Quinn throws the touch passes. He does - they are a thing of beauty. Deep balls are a different story. His accuracy is lacking - that has been a knock since his days at Notre Dame. When I talk about 'deep-ball accuracy' I mean his ability to hit a receiver on a 25+ yard in or out, not necessarily a fly route. I also look for the ball to be put on the receiver where he can do something with it after the catch, other than get de-cleated by a defender.
I watched Eric Decker quite a bit today. As a receiver he is ahead of where Demaryius Thomas is - FOR NOW. That is a big distinction, and not surprising since Decker played in a pro-style offense at Minnesota. Thomas played in the triple-option the past couple of years - big difference. Decker made some rookie mistakes - running the wrong route a couple times for example - which is to be expected since he missed the entire off-season program with his foot injury. What Decker does do well right now is play the ball in the air. He understands how to get in and out of breaks and finds the ball - and plays it - very well as it is coming towards him. That allows him to get his huge frame in between the ball and the defender.
I will say one thing about D-Thomas. He is an imposing figure with the ball in his hands. I don't want you to think I am saying he is playing poorly - I'm not. He is learning how to play wide receiver in an offense he's not used to and it is going to take a bit of time. One it clicks for him, however, he is going to be a monster. You can see he has all the physical ability.
Time to get this morning's star. Rookie-corner Perrish Cox got a chance to run with the 1st team with Champ Bailey taking the morning off and he made the most of it. Cox picked off Kyle Orton twice during the morning - Orton threw a total of three interceptions - and broke up several passes. I mentioned the other day that Cox - while not possessing top-notch, straight-line speed - does come out of his back-pedal quickly and plays in and routes very well. His first interception was just that kind of play - a quick out route to Demaryius Thomas that Cox read, jumped and would have taken to the house. I liked Cox coming out of college, and I've enjoyed how he has played so far. He's a joy to talk to after practice as well.
There was plenty of action during a 7x7 drill. All three quarterbacks saw time, and the defense really flexed its' muscle. Nice defensive plays by Akin Ayodele, Nate Jones - who is still running as the first nickel - and Andre Goodman, who made a great juggling interception on a sweet fade-pass by Brady Quinn to Jabar Gaffney. Goodman made the play, moreso than Quinn threw a bad pass. Tebow saw some reps as well, trying one back-shoulder pass to Thomas at the goal-line that was knocked away by Tony Carter. It appeared that the play would have been P.I. if it happened during a game, and Tebow showed the strength of his arm when throwing the ball to his left. Big difference. Overall, the defense really got the better of the session.
As the Broncos went back to 11x11, it appeared Bruce Hall was getting plenty of attempts at running back. In reality, the coaches are spreading the wealth, giving each of the backs a chance to carry the ball behind the offensive starters.
There was plenty of work on crossing routes, something that plays into the strength of all the quarterbacks on the roster. To me, this is where Kyle Orton shines. Orton didn't have a great morning - 3 picks on the day - but it is practice and you can see he has a firm grip of the offense. It is a far cry form last Training Camp when you could see Orton thinking in the pocket. He trusts what he sees now and reacts.
There was a bit of a shuffle along the offensive line, with D'Anthony Batiste seeing action at left tackle. Tyler Polumbus had been starting on the left side but the Broncos want to see different guys. I thought Batiste did a decent job. Part of me wonders why the Broncos simply wouldn't give Ryan Harris a go. I know McDaniels would prefer to fix one hole instead of creating 2, but left tackle is too important.
The workout ended with another 2-minute drill session. It started with 1st team O vs. 1st team D. The drill starts on the 20, less than 2 minutes to go, the offense down 4 points. Orton started the drill with a sweet pass over the outstretched hands of Akin Ayodele to Jabar Gaffney. Orton and Gaffney really have a solid rapport together. After a throw away, Perrish Cox picked Orton off, ending the first team's 2-minute battle.
Next, the 2nd team offense went up against the 2nd team defense. With Brady Quinn at the helm, the offense was able to drive down the field - with the assistance of a pass interference call on Syd' Quan Thompson on Demaryius Thomas. You know it is P.I. when they call it during a Camp drill.
With a goal-to-go situation for the offense from the 6, the Broncos were bitten by the same things that has cursed them over the past couple of years. A false-start penalty(Marquez Branson holds the team-lead for 'Reminder Laps' so far), followed by an in-completion saw the Broncos with a 2nd and Goal from the 13. That's when Alphonso Smith made an appearance. On a quick-out route to the pylon by Matthew Willis, 'Phonz made a great break on a perfect pass by Quinn to dive and knock it away. In truth, Smith made a few nice plays during the workout this morning. After a sack brought up 4th down, Quinn final pass to Willis was again knocked down - this time a nice play by Cassius Vaughn, ending the 2-minute situation.
The workout ended with the FG team getting some work. Matt Prater was solid, as always, making all but one of his kicks from varying distances.
With that the morning session came to an end. Good or bad, the Broncos are working DAMN HARD on both sides of the ball. The effort is there, and the coaches are teaching, encouraging and most importantly building players up, not tearing them down. The attitude is upbeat. This is important as the days begin to drag on.
Video to come. Go BRONCOS!