The first week of Training Camp is nearly in the books for the Denver Broncos. The players will be returning to the field after a well earned day off. Six practices are complete, with one being canceled for the public due to bad weather and three of them being full pad sessions. I will be returning to Dove Valley to cover this afternoons segment, but I thought I would give you all some of my thoughts on how the 2012 Broncos Training Camp has progressed.
First off, there isn't a Country Club atmosphere like the Mike Shanahan era and there is no music blaring, running laps, or screaming like a spoiled brat like the Josh McDaniels project. The adults are in charge now. The is not only a plan, but a direction with an achievable goal. The Broncos are quietly going about their business with the intent to win the Super Bowl. Now. This season. You won't hear it from the players and Head coach John Fox won't give it away with his "coach-speak," but the feeling and the swagger is present, if you know where to look. There are a lot of smiles. You know the kind I'm talking about. That "all-knowing smile." The "Cat that ate the canary smile." If you watch VP of football operations John Elway during an interview, he has that look and I don't think it's because he stole a cheerleader from the Oakland Raiders. He is a man on a mission, just like the rest of the team. And when the feeling comes from the top, it tends to trickle down and seep into the very pores of the entire organization. Kind of like osmosis.
Running Game - Passing Game
I have been asked about how the running Backs have been doing. Let's not forget to take into consideration that it is practice and the main goals of Training Camp are, to put in the work, install the schemes and stay as healthy as possible while preparing for the season. That said, it is difficult to evaluate how the Running Backs have been doing because the Defense has dominated the Running game, just like the Offense is ahead in the Passing game. There has been some good runs to the outside and occasionally a few up the middle, but the new Defensive Line is a wall of Stone Giants. So there is some good and not so good. It all depends on your perspective. One has to be happy that the Defensive Line looks like it will be stout, but at the same time be concerned that the Offense isn't picking up yards on the ground. Somewhere there is a happy medium and we really won't know the complete answer until the Broncos play another team.
As far as the Passing game appears, I would like to point out first, that it should be vastly improved this year. Sure, Peyton Manning is the main reason, but this Receiving corps looks very good all the way around. The personnel upgrades at Tight End will make a huge impact and have an effect on the Run game as well. There are a couple of new faces at the Wide Receiver position too. My immediate favorites are WR Eric Decker and TE Joel Dreesen, but there are others making significant strides as well. Matt Willis and Andre Caldwell are standing out. Jacob Tamme will be a regular contributor as well. The Running Backs will actually be used more effectively in the short passing game, which is another big change from 2011.
It has been observed that Demaryius Thomas has had drops and hasn't been targeted like Eric Decker or even Brandon Stokely has. I would like to set the record straight on some myths that are created by the fans and the media.
- There are no favorite Receivers for a Quarterback
Sure a QB might look to a key player for a 3rd down conversion, or it may even appear that one player gets all the opportunities in the Red Zone, but the truth is, the Offensive philosophy is what dictates these assumed patterns. Most teams run a concept. It starts with the team philosophy and goes from there. This year, adapting to what Peyton Manning does best and integrating what the ball handlers excel at, will define the 2012 Denver Broncos team philosophy. What Peyton does best, is the short to intermediate passing game. That, and his particular talent for picking apart Defenses.
Anyway, the point I'm trying to make, is that Demaryius Thomas may not be getting as many passes thrown his way at present because of a few factors. One is, that the team is installing plays and he might not be on the agenda for the day. Not every play call will go towards targeting him. The Broncos have a specific group of plays for each weapon and it depends on the play call, or in this case, the play being practiced.
The second reason has to do with that concept I referred to. Each week, the Broncos will have a different plan of attack or what they believe they can accomplish whether it is a particular matchup or a perceived weakness on that week's opponent. One week it may be Demaryius Thomas that is the focus and another week could be Joel Dreesen and Jacob Tamme exposing a weakness in the middle of the field.
This also has to do with the Quarterbacks. Last season, the Broncos had two Quarterback with completely different skill sets. The main problem with that, is if there was an injury to the starter, the whole game plan would need to be scrapped because the next guy up couldn't execute that same game plan. That would make a comeback more difficult to accomplish.
This season, every Quarterback on the team is training under the same philosophy. If an injury occurs now, a philosophy change won't be required. Of course, replacing Peyton Manning would be impossible, but this season, the next man up will be able to continue implementing the gameplan, albeit with lesser talent. Just remember, it is a team. Win or lose they do it together.
For a little more insight on my thought process, I did a guest spot on Colorado Sports Guys last night.