Big Al Williams runs a radio show. Ring of Fame center Tom Nalen runs a radio show.
John Elway runs a professional football franchise.
But they all came from the same place - the Denver Broncos roster. And they all watched this year's roster from training camp today.
It was a day of alumni reunions at training camp today. Aside from Nalen, Williams, and Elway, who are common faces at camp, there were a number of Broncos greats in attendance Monday. Ed McCaffrey watched practice as part of his coverage for KOA - I had the pleasure of talking to him for about 15 minutes. John Lynch was at camp for the second day in a row, and even Broncos legend Simon Fletcher was in the Broncos' VIP tent, eager to meet coach Fox for the first time.
Had a great time meeting Coach Fox! A great man and a great leader for our team! pic.twitter.com/w0sVDUSvn9— Simon Fletcher (@OfficialTeam73) July 29, 2013
It wasn't long ago that Broncos alumni were given the cold shoulder at Dove Valley; I love this new attitude of welcoming in our accomplished veterans with open arms.
Those Broncos all-stars were witnesses of a crisp practice that saw the defense succeed at preventing big plays and the running game start to find its groove.
All players were in attendance except Dan Koppen, who has yet to be officially placed on the Injured Reserve list (just a technicality). C.J. Davis and Andre Caldwell returned to practice after missing Sunday; Ryan Clady continued to be limited.
Big defensive tackle Sylvester Williams suffered a left knee injury somewhat early in practice. The Broncos' first round draft pick limped to the sideline and got some attention from the trainers for about five minutes. Thereafter he limped to the locker room, under his own power. Williams will be day-to-day.
It looked to me like Ronnie Hillman got a little dinged up and sat out the 9-on-7 series early in practice; he was back at it for full team work later in the day.
No Big Plays? That's Okay
A day where Peyton Manning doesn't connect with a wide receiver for a huge gain or touchdown is pretty rare, but that was the case at Dove Valley Monday. You can look at it one of two ways: either the offense is still getting in sync, or the defense, particularly the safeties, did a damn good job keeping their opponents in front of them.
I prefer the latter, and will commend Denver's secondary on keeping this talented Denver offense in check. Chris Harris and Rahim Moore swarmed Demaryius Thomas on separate occasions; Quentin Jammer had several good tackles shortly after the catch and also sped through the middle of the o-line for a sack in reserve work; Omar Bolden had a nice pass breakup and also batted down a pass on jolly blue giant Brock Osweiler. Wes Welker got the better of Bolden for the offense's biggest passing play of the day (pictured below), but overall it was a solid day for Bolden and the rest of Denver's secondary, across all three units (first through third string).
Manny Ramirez took back over the starting center job following Dan Koppen's injury. A healthy C.J. Davis resumed work as the second center while Philip Blake filled in at three. Newly signed Steve Vallos didn't participate in anything meaningful yet as far as the depth chart goes (team snaps).
Hillman's short respite saw Montee Ball and Knowshon Moreno step in as #1 and #2 backs respectively. Ball continued to struggle - he dances behind the line, cuts twice, and has yet to have a truly impressive run, though he did break free once. Knowshon, on the other hand, looked very solid. More on that later.
The Top Three may be set in stone, but after that things are very fluid. My favorite backup right now -- by far -- is Greg Orton. The kid is making himself uncuttable. He gets open consistently, and he catches everything thrown his way. Today he even mimicked Demaryius Thomas, dunking the football over the goal posts after snagging a touchdown pass in the back of the end zone from Brock Osweiler.
The only issue I have with Orton is that he is only doing this against backups. Even in one-on-one's, he rarely sees time against the likes of Champ Bailey or Chris Harris, and that's really when an up-and-comer can test his mettle. I'd like to see Orton get just a little bit of time in with the one's - we know what we have in Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and Wes Welker, but we don't know what we have in Orton, and it's important to find out before Decker's contract expires after this season.
Julius Thomas continues to mix in time with the starters. The Broncos will play both Thomas and Tamme, with Joel Dreessen being the more common mainstay. Virgil Green also sees the field often in three tight end sets.
I agree with the following statement wholeheartedly:
I also have not seen enough from Bruton to christen him a starter yet, though the Broncos continue to give him that chance. I like Mike Adams slightly better at this point. The three continue to see the majority of starting snaps.
Play of the Day
This didn't go for a touchdown, but it was a solid play from start to finish. Brock Osweiler had a good practice, but on this play he looked particularly impressive. Big Brock dropped back, and pressure came immediately from several sides. Knowshon Moreno had a simply clutch block in pass protection that allowed Osweiler to escape the pocket and take a step to his left. He found Virgil Green on a 15-plus-yard out route and placed it high and away, perfectly, and Green hauled it in. I loved seeing the backup offense execute that nicely.
Who Won Today - Knowshon Moreno
Aside from Knowshon's clutch pass protection mentioned above, he was the best looking running back of the Hillman-Ball-Moreno combo today, and perhaps of the entire running back corps. There was no hesitation on Moreno's part during 9-on-7 drills, and he had another nice run up the guy in 11-on-11 before getting barely tripped up on a shoestring tackle. I will note that Moreno had one fumble in team work but was able to recover it himself; otherwise it was a perfect practice for the former first round pick.
Runner Up: Kayvon Webster. The rookie cornerback had an interception in individual work and a pass breakup in red zone work.
Who Lost Today - Jake O'Connell
The second-to-newest Bronco had a couple of drops and was the victim of big hits today. Tough day for a guy trying to make the most of this opportunity, but he may just be in an impossible situation. A player needs to soak up the playbook to the point where it's second nature to really let his physical talent show itself. O'Connell, signed last Friday, may be too busy processing each route mentally to truly show what he can do physically.
Walkthrough tonight. The players have the day off Tuesday and will next return to the practice field in the public's eyes on Wednesday July 31 from 10:25 a.m. to 1:05 p.m.