Today is the last day of OTA's for the Broncos, and the last time the team will be on the field until the mandatory Mini-Camp that starts July 9th. I am definitely going to miss Andrew Mason's daily updates and the photos that accompanied them. One thing is for sure, the Broncos look loaded and ready to make a push in the AFC. Such a statement is uttered by every team this time of year, and sure, the Broncos have a lot of question marks, but the team added a lot of veteran leadership, a lot of winning culture, and maybe most importantly a lot of beef to the defensive line.
I know, I know, we really don't know what we'll get from Sam Adams. What I do know is he sounds motivated and ready to put 2006 behind him. I also know he has never played fewer than 12 games in any season, and that was his first season, 1994. I am sure that Adams is a better option than the first option the Broncos went after, Dan Wilkinson. I also know that the Broncos aren't expecting Adams to come right in and make a huge impact. His snaps will managed, and I wouldn't expect Adams to play more than 15-20 snaps per game. On the Bengals, a team with not much of a defense to speak of, Adams was relied upon to be the premiere run-stuffer. In Denver, he'll be part of a rotation of younger players and wily vets. It appears to fit Adams perfectly. The fact that he is out there at the OTA's, already practicing with his new teammates proves Adams' head is in the right place and that he is ready to make a difference.
Maybe the biggest impact from Adams will come from the knowledge he will impart on the younger players. Remember, the Broncos have two rookie DT's, Marcus Thomas and Steven Harris, as well as several young guys. Even Gerrard Warren can learn a bundle from Adams. Just having Adams in the locker room and on the sidelines will have an impact.
The other lasting image I have from looking at all those fine photos is the fun the team seems to be having together. Sure, it is easy to focus on the X's and O's, but there will be plenty of time for that. Remember, these are voluntary workouts. Teams all over the NFL are having a hard time getting full participation. Asante Samuel in New England, Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn in Dallas, and there are many more, are NOT participating in their team's workouts. The Broncos don't have that issue, don't have key components "working out on their own". It's a nice situation to be in. Remember the soap-opera that was the Ashly Lelie situation last year? I know I do, and it was a mess, all the way through training camp. These guys truly seem to enjoy playing/practicing/being together and that is huge.
When the Broncos were beset by tragedy this off-season many of us wondered what the effect it have on the team. The deaths to Darrent Williams and Damien Nash, combined with the release of Al Wilson, could have easily been a divisive force. It wasn't. In fact, it seems the team has been galvanized, and younger players like D.J. Williams and Domonique Fonxworth, who have waited for their chance to be team leaders, are taking advantage of the opportunity. The team appears to be close-knit.
All of this fluff means little in June, I agree. Just don't underestimate the effect a close-knit locker room can have on the field once we get to Training Camp, then the regular season. We are only 3 months away, and it is going to be here before we know. Though we have a long way to go, the feeling I get, both in looking at the photos, reading the quotes, and actually being at the Fan Fair this past weekend, is that 2007 might just be something special. Only time will tell.