The Broncos went through a long, hot workout on Tuesday morning under bright sunny skies, and as the temperature at Dove Valley rose, so did the intensity of the practice. Hard hitting, a bit of 'after-the-whistle-shenanigans' and plenty of ohh's and ahh's filled the skies. Yes, Broncos fans, Training Camp, for the first time since I arrived, has really begun.
Here's a breakdown of what I saw this morning. While there is plenty to work on, players and coaches alike are really starting to amp up the intensity and tempo of the workouts.
D.J. Williams missed his 2nd straight practice. As is customary, Coach McDaniels did not elaborate on why Williams, Kenny McKinley, Josh Barrett or Chris Baker missed the workout, but it is something to pay attention to.
My favorite drill of the workouts has quickly become the running backs attacking the blocking sled. This group, even without Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter, are a hard-hitting, aggressive bunch that is really looking to take ahold of the opportunity that is before them. Whether C-Buck and Knowshon are back in a week, 2 weeks, or a month, guys like Kolby Smith, Toney Baker and Lance Ball are really going after it. For some of them it could be their last best shot at a full-time gig in the NFL, either in Denver or elsewhere.
It is easy to see why Spencer Larsen is a popular choice to play fullback. He runs over and demolishes everything in his path. He is really becoming one of my favorite, unheralded Broncos.
Overall, the running backs continue to run hard every time they touch the ball, and they continue to block hard every time they don't. Someone is going to grab the bull by the horns in all of this, and the Broncos will be better for what can be considered a bad situation.
In my mind, this morning's workout was a tale of two halves. It was owned by the defense early on, with much of the focus on the short-yardage running game. This is where I want to pause for a moment. Much is being made of the O-Line struggles. It should, it is the biggest question surrounding the Broncos this Camp.
Keep in mind - and many of you are - that the Broncos made huge improvements to the defensive line. With the situation along the offensive front, the D-Line SHOULD BE dominating. Frankly, I'd be more concerned if the O-Line was winning the battles with all the money spent on defense. This will only help the youngsters get better as the dog-days of August trudge along. Sure, it is hard to watch at times, but the endgame should make it all worth it. Patience.
Demaryius Thomas had a couple drops today, something that has been a bit uncharacteristic. One Brady Quinn pass that sailed through his hands ended up being intercepted by Darcel McBath. The result for Thomas was a 'lap-of-shame'.
Running back Kolby Smith also endured a lap after fumbling a hand-off attempt from Tim Tebow. One thought I had when it happened was the difference for a running back between taking a hand-off from a right-handed QB and a left-handed one. No in-depth analysis, just curious.
Speaking of Smith, Elvis Dumervil lit him up during one running play about midway through practice. We didn't see much of Smith after that. Could have been by design, could have been something else.
For the first time this camp the team went through an 11X11 drill with very loud music playing in the background to simulate crowd noise. The beats had the defense grooving, on and off the field, but had little impact on the offense.
During 9x7 drills, it appeared to me that the 1st Team defense go the better of the 1st Team offense, while the opposite was true of the 2nd team units.
A few different configurations with the kick-off team. Even Cassius Vaughn got a shot returning kicks. Eddie Roya, however, showed that he is still silky-smooth in the return game drawing a loud cheer with a nice return to end one of the practice sessions.
It was about now that the offense started to make their move. Several solid plays, from Toney Baker and Jabar Gaffney, highlighted the 11X11 session that was pretty evenly matched.
Speaking of Gaffney, he made a nice play on a 40-yard TD pass from Kyle Orton over Champ Bailey during one of the timed sessions. Gaffney is going to have a huge season, I can feel it.
There was one heated moment, which I want to be sure not to overblown. During one play, Brady Quinn fumbled. In the ensuing scramble for the loose ball, Matthew Willis gave a pretty good shot to Alphonso Smith, who wasn't looking, sending him to the turf. Far from dirty, I guess the hit could be best described as 'slightly borderline' for Training Camp - unless, of course, the players were told it was full throttle. The hit didn't sit well with Elvis Dumervil, who is quickly becoming a vocal leader on the defense. He and Willis had some words before heads cooled. I assure you, it was nothing like what happened in Arizona Cardinals camp yesterday, just the heat of the day+heat of the practice+guys getting sick of being hot = a little boiling over. Still, good to see.
Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention - at 10:31 AM mt, Tim Tebow threw his first jump pass. It was incomplete.
I want to make one more comment about Tebow. There has been plenty of comments about how Tebow should be covered He is, afterall, the 3rd string quarterback. Here's the problem. Tebow is not your average, everyday 3rd string quarterback. He is getting several more reps each practice than, say, Tom Brandstater did last year. Sure, some of that is because it was Kyle Orton's first year in the offense as well, but as many of you know Tebow is likely to see action on the field in some way, shape or form. He needs to be talked about, not becuase he is Tim Tebow, but because he will likely be part of the 45-man roster every week.
Overall it was a spirited workout. The players are really starting to get into it. It looked and sounded like football, and that my friends is AWESOME!
The afternoon practice today is schedule to be a walk-through. We'll see exactly what we can take from it. After 4 tough workouts, all in pads, the guys might need a bit of a breather.