With two of three weeks of Training Camp complete and the first preseason game in hand, it’s time for second thoughts on my first impressions from the Denver Broncos practices. Second thoughts being more a play on words than a retraction of my first impressions.
This year’s crop of rookies are competing well in Camp. Denver’s first selection, 36th overall pick Derek Wolfe, has been showing up in first team reps in practice. Derek has seen time at Defensive End and sliding inside as part of the Nickel package. He showed the endless motor that he was touted for on Thursday night in Chicago, with a pair of Sacks and Quarterback hits. Wolfe had three Tackles in the game, all for negative yardage.
Quarterback Brock Osweiler, the Broncos other 2nd round selection, has shown flashes of potential that help us see why John Elway was so high on him. This kid has an NFL arm, the size to see over the biggest of Linemen and the intelligence to grow into the position. I have seen him look off the Safety numerous times, when the guy ahead of him on the depth chart is locking in on his receivers. There is no doubt that Osweiler is a rookie and a raw one at that, but his debut on Thursday showed that he can lead the team on a touchdown drive.
We haven’t really seen enough of 3rd round pick Ronnie Hillman. He has been slowed by a sore Hamstring since August 1st and has only just returned to full practice status. I have seen some good plays out of him in Training Camp, but to be truthful, I’m still waiting to see that burst of speed from his college tape show up at practice. I think he can contribute this year, but the Running Back situation behind starter Willis McGahee seems to be in flux.
Cornerback Omar Bolden has been working with the second unit all Camp. I am encouraged by his talent and he has shown up in Training Camp and made some plays. However, since he is stuck behind Tracy Porter and Drayton Florence at the Right Cornerback position, I wonder how much playing time he will get this year barring injury.
Philip Blake hasn’t shown much more than the propensity to make inconsistent snaps at Center. We all know that won’t fly on this Bronco team and not with Peyton Manning, that’s for sure. I haven’t really noticed Blake other than that. He’s a big body, but there are plenty of those in Dove Valley. An early guess is that he doesn’t make the final 53. Maybe not even the Practice Squad. But hey, I don’t make the roster decisions.
5th round pick Malik Jackson has been active in Training Camp, though inconsistent. He is fighting for a spot on the roster with former cadet Ben Garland. From what I’ve seen, this is one of the closest battles for a job this season. Both players will be quality depth. Something that has been rare in Denver when talking about the Defensive Line.
Danny Trevathan, the sixth round Outside Linebacker out of Kentucky, has been a pleasant surprise. Danny has shown to be an aggressive player that can deliver a hit. He seems to be around the ball alot, which is sure to get noticed by the coaching staff. He has my attention for sure.
Out of the six rookies in the Broncos 2012 draft, Derrick Wolfe and Ronnie Hillman have the best chance of getting playing time this season. Wolfe is already playing with the starters, which is what you expect from your first pick, but Hillman may not see much at the beginning. However, the Running Back position can be decimated by injuries at any time (Witness the Broncos 2008 season). Hillman really needs to work on his pass blocking if he is to see action in the regular rotation. He is currently listed 3rd on the depth chart, but from what I’ve seen, Knowshon Moreno, Jeremiah Johnson and yes even Xavier Omon are ahead of Ronnie. Perhaps that lost week affected Hillman’s position on the team.
Now there’s a word that hasn’t held water in the Mile High city for awhile. At least not until now. The additions of Tracy Porter, Drayton Florence, Mike Adams, Justin Bannan, Keith Brooking and even Jim Leonhard prove that John Elway is dead serious about making a run for a championship. Rebuilding? Sure the Broncos are rebuilding. But one must understand that the rebuilding process goes on each year. Just look at the roster. Granted, the current list of 90 players needs to reduce to 53, but there are at least 45 guys that weren’t on the squad in 2011. 22 of those players have a very legitimate shot of making the final 53. That is a 41% roster turnover, so yes, I think you could say rebuilding.
I am really enthused by this depth. Sure the talent level could be higher, especially through the middle, but at least there shouldn’t be a dramatic drop off when the bumps and bruises take their toll, and you know they will. The best thing about it, is that John Elway is providing the rookies a chance to develop by bringing in veterans who won’t be here next season. Keith Brooking and Jim Leonhard can’t have a whole lot left in the tank, but they have leadership qualities from their years of experience in the league and that will rub off on the young players.
Well, I’d better stop at these two subjects or I will never get this finished. We can try this again in another week.
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