Well, day one of training camp is in the books, and already I have had one of the more eventful days in my near decade of trips to Colorado to watch the Broncos practice.
Kirk gave us all a very good report for the AM practice, one in which I spent with John as part of the press which was extremely cool. Obviously, it was a bit unsettling to see Knowshon Moreno carted off, followed by a limping Correll Buckhalter, but the Broncos appear to have come away with good news from both of them. As John reported earlier, Buckhalter will resume practicing in a week, and Knowshon in probably three weeks.
In the meantime, the Broncos have a hole at the running back position, currently being filled by a quartet of roster bubble players: Lance Ball, Bruce Hall, Kolby Smith, and rookie Toney Baker. It seemed Ball and Smith were given the most reps with the first team from what I could see tonight at camp, but neither has my vote of confidence just yet.
The evening practice got started off with a little rain shower and a slightly smaller crowd than the morning session, but thousands of Broncos fans were on hand even through the cold rain to watch their team. Follow me after the jump...
To be blunt, the aspect of the team that stood out the most more than anything from the second session was the offensive line, and it wasn't encouraging. To give you a visual, Kyle Orton (who is generally one of the more easy going players on the squad) threw the ball at the ground at one point after the defense had been allowed yet another sack against him.
Credit the defense, they had some players who were making plays and applying constant pressure, but Jarvis Moss likely isn't beating Ryan Clady like he stole something from him like he did to Tyler Polumbus this evening. The Broncos may need to try out second round pick Zane Beadles as the first team left tackle, because Polumbus simply doesn't have the foot quickness to block the league's top pass rushers.
To me, the offensive line was a red flag, and it's good that it is being exposed early on in camp so the coaching staff can make adjustments. The season could hinge on the left knee of Ryan Clady. On the one hand, you don't want the staff to rush him back to action, but on the other, you can't wait forever for him to get back, because he is that important.
Clady's absence made life tough for the quarterbacks, but again, it's good to have that initial "wow" factor for the quarterbacks so they can make adjustments as needed.
One thing is for sure though--Clady's absence didn't affect the focus of Kyle Orton, who appears to be a man on a mission. He has a very strong arm, contrary to popular belief. To see it in person is to believe it. Orton can sling the ball around, which he has been able to do since he was in college, and as John and I talked about this morning--this is HIS team. Make no mistake about it.
Kyle Orton is THE leader of the Broncos' offense, and Tim Tebow is taking quite a bit of pressure off of him. Orton didn't make every throw, and he isn't drawing any comparisons to Peyton Manning or anything, but his health this year along with the health of Ryan Clady could be the keys to the Broncos' success in 2010. Scratch that, they ARE the keys to the Broncos' season.
As for the players Orton was throwing the ball to, I have seen and believed the Matt Willis phenomenon. After tearing it up at OTA's by many accounts, Willis continued to have an impressive camp and appears to be the fastest player we have on the team. His ability to contribute not only as a receiver but as a return man should net him a spot on this roster, but he will have some serious competition.
Kenny McKinley made the catch of the day against Tony Carter on the sideline right in front of me. The ball was perfectly placed over his left shoulder, and Carter went up for it. McKinley had to adjust to Carter's new positioning, and made a toe tapping, circus-style catch right near the sideline. Those are the types of plays the Broncos need more often from Kenny, who is a roster bubble player in his own right.
Two guys who also really stood out were Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. I know it's the first day of practice, but those guys are big receivers who know how to use their bodies, and both have great hands. They are going to be exciting to watch for a long time.
On the other side of the ball, Champ Bailey was his old self. He was setting the example for the young corners, completely shutting down Brandon Lloyd most of the evening.
I noticed Robert Ayers running with the first team defense, and I also noticed that he has put on a bit of weight. Obviously he's in shape because he passed the conditioning test, and he could be poised for a big year opposite the NFL's reigning sack king, Elvis Dumervil.
The offense and defense didn't do a ton of 11 on 11 in the evening session, and there weren't many bone-jarring hits or interceptions.
Oh and by the way, Tim Tebow was there.
Tebow seemingly could do no wrong today, as the crowd gave him a round of applause and cheers essentially every time he touched the ball. Still, Tebow didn't disappoint. He was one of the most entertaining players at practice. A few of his throws seemed to wobble to receivers, but he hardly threw an incomplete pass, and the only mistakes he really made were holding the ball too long.
Even then, Tebow was able to often escape the pressure and create a play with his legs, again drawing a round of applause from the crowd. He wasn't shy about leading the conditioning drills at the end of both practices today either, and he showed his leadership late in the evening practice. After completing a pass to Brandon Stokley in which Stokley was completely laid out (probably the biggest hit of the day), Tebow ran to his aid after the play to make sure he was okay. They exchanged high fives, and played on.
Also, hard work is rewarded nowadays. According to the official site's blog, the team voted a few select players as offseason award winners:
Josh Barrett, Daniel Graham, Russ Hochstein, Chris Kuper, Spencer Larsen, Ryan McBean, Jarvis Moss, Brady Quinn, Matthew Willis and Wesley Woodyard were all voted Offseason Award Winners by their teammates.
I'm not sure what that means, if anything, but I thought it was worth noting anyway. Woodyard was also one of the stars of camp today, winning multiple individual battles in one on one drills between the offense and defense.
The first day of training camp was about as expected. The team is obviously in very good shape and in good spirits, which was encouraging. The injury reports weren't bleak, which was also encouraging. The team was sloppy at times, and there is obviously a lot of work to be done, but again it was the first day of camp so take everything you hear and read with a grain of salt.