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2009 Denver Broncos Training Camp - 7/31 PM Breakdown

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The seed of a high school football coach doesn't venture far from the tree.  Josh McDaniels is no exception.  Coming to a team that has finished 24-24 the past 3 seasons, McDaniels knew that fundamentals were going to be a key component to turning the franchise around.  For the first time, we are getting a look at what the young coach plans to do about it.  Daddy would be proud.

Before I get too deep into what I am speaking about above, let me just say this.  After a full day, and I mean a FULL day, there is definitely a change in Denver.  Gone are the 75-minute practices. Gone, at least for today, is an afternoon practice that focused only on special teams.  Gone are the practices off for veterans.  All of this will hopefully lead to a team that isn't soft.  Today's workout was fast-paced, crisp, and efficient - and lasted 2 full hours each time.

Now, back to the high school comment.  As I was watching the Broncos work on drill after drill - drills I never saw last season (all the blocking sleds look new, which makes sense), I couldn't help but think I had seen all these drills before. 

But where?

High School, that's where.

Now, don't get me wrong; to say that these practices reminded me of high school workouts is not a derogatory term, at least not in this context.  Josh McDaniels took over a team that couldn't get out of its own way at times.  The only way to fix it is to get back to the basics. 

The Broncos spent a lot of time working in small groups, working on stripping the football, or hitting a sled.  Defensive linemen worked on slapping the hands of O-linemen off of them so they could 'stay clean'. 

Quarterbacks ran drills that included dropping back to pass with coaches slapping at the ball, trying to break it free.

Linebackers worked on dropping into coverage, then going and trying to intercept a pass. 

Everything you would go out and teach a 13-year-old is what the Broncos were working.  It was a welcome sight.

One thing I did not see was a Red-Zone or Two-Minute drill.  That might shock some.  Both were a staple of the Shanahan practice, as if everything else was quickly completed to get to the real show.  What we learned, however, is that it means little in the Red-Zone or Two-Minute drill if your team is not fundamentally sound.  The Broncos were not, and all the little inefficiencies add up during a football game.

I know; it was only one day, but it was refreshing to see the team working on things it has struggled with in the past -- rookies, vets, young and old, working on the same thing, with the same goal in mind - to become a better football team.

Now, some random thoughts -

Milehighreport_small_mediumBrandon Marshall was held out of the afternoon workout, spending time rehabilitating instead.

Milehighreport_small_medium Alphonso Smith is a special football player.  He is, however, a rookie getting his first taste of camp.  Tonight's workout was a bit of a struggle at times, specifically in 1-on-1 passing drills against the likes of Brandon Stokley and Eddie Royal.  Stokley could be the league's best route runner, and Royal isn't far behind.  Going against that kind of competition will get you good in a hurry.

That said, Smith is a naturally-gifted return man.  With gazelle-like strides, Smith seems to eat 2-3 yards per stride on a return.  His moves are quick and decisive and his 190-lb. frame is better suited to take the pounding.

Milehighreport_small_mediumOne injury to report - DB Vernon Fox left the field with an apparent right ankle injury.  He was able to walk off, but carried a noticeable limp.

Milehighreport_small_mediumRyan Torain and Peyton Hillis look to be close to 100%.  I saw Hillis used in numerous looks - in the backfield, split wide, H-Back.  It was good to see the burst. especially after the type of hamstring injury he suffered.

Milehighreport_small_mediumSomething I saw tonight that I never would have seen last year #1 -- Tyler Polumbus, guilty of some kind of infraction, was sent to run laps around the field - just like in high school.

Milehighreport_small_mediumSomething I saw tonight that I never would have seen last year #2 -- Right before the final drill of the day, the team ran three sprints across the width of the field - 53.5 yards each way.  It came at a time when I was writing in my notebook that the evening workout was a bit sloppy.  I guess McDaniels agreed.  Just like high school.

Milehighreport_small_mediumAfter the practice ended, the three PUP players - Champ Bailey, Renaldo Hill and Marcus Thomas - were running 50-yard sprints. 

That ends Day 1.  For those of you that were in the crowd, thanks for taking the time to report what you saw.  If you are going tomorrow, let me know.