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Broncos 2011 Training Camp-Kaptain's Log-Morning Practice Day One

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Photo by Kaptain Kirk 7/28/11
The JUGG's machine kickoff/punt simulator

Welcome back Broncos! I was excited on the drive up to Dove Valley, to see the inaugural Training Camp practice for new Denver Broncos head coach John Fox. I had questions that needed answering and couldn't wait. Were the players going to be in shape? How different was this Camp going to be, compared to the last two? Well, sit back and enjoy the tale I have for you and we will get those questions answered. As Strength and Conditioning coach Rich Tuten says, Readygo!                                                                                                   

I arrive inside the complex just as the quarterbacks emerge from the locker room and begin to loosed up. I couldn't tell you who was first, but both Orton and Tebow admirers greeted them.The new QB, Adam Weber is wearing #2 and I can't really tell if he is 6'1" or 6'3". Brady Quinn is playing soft toss with a Ball boy and the other three QB's are playing catch with Julius Thomas and Virgil Green and Marshall Williams (14). Mark Dell (83) and Eron Riley (13) get in on the action as well. Mario Fannin (42) and Lance Ball play catch with one another. Spencer Larsen moseys out to where the others are tossing the ball around and begins to get loose.

More players enter on to the practice field and loosen up. They are in Shells and Shorts for this practice. One thing missing from last year is the music, which mildly disappoints me. Lonie Paxton is snapping to Britton Colquitt and the JUGG's machine is set up at the 30 yard line. I am sitting in my usual spot at the far 40 yard line. All the players practicing today are on the field and they separate into groups. The QB's practice taking snaps under Center over on the far field. In case you don't know, there are two regulation fields side by side. Usually the Defense practices on the far side and the Offense on the field directly in front of me. The Punt Coverage Unit assembles and they begin to practice blocking schemes and their Get offs. The first HORN of 2011 Training Camp blows.

I notice the segment clock is way across the field in the corner furthest from my position. Last Camp it was located between the two fields. Eddie Royal, Syd'Quan Thompson and Perrish Cox take turns fielding Punts from a combination of the JUGG's machine and Britton Colquitt. The Punter is booming kicks 55-65 yards and I count past "five one-thousand" on one Punt. Colquitt is punting from the near 30 yard line and forcing the returners back to the 5 yard line. Eddie Royal doesn't look like he has any after-affects from Hip surgery and is moving well. Special Teams coach Jeff Rodgers explains with emphasis what he wants out of the coverage unit as far as their blocking. HORN

The segment clock resets to 5 minutes, but after it runs down to zero, is never used again during practice. The Offense and Defense break off to their separate fields and Kyle Orton sets up the 1st team and they have some running plays. Knowshon Moreno gets a carry and they rotate in Tim Tebow, who hands off to Lance Ball. The next rep has Brady Quinn handing off to LenDale White, who is not limping, but isn't running at full speed during this drill. Orton hands off to Moreno, Tebow to Brandon Minor (36) and Quinn to Jeremiah Johnson (37). The 3 QB's get another rep and Knowshon Moreno, Lance Ball and Brandon Minor each get one more carry before they split up and reform for 11 on 11 drills. Lance Ball is looking hungry and it really looks like those sessions at Red Rocks have done him well. Brandon Minor looks like a shifty runner. Knowshon looks like he wants to have a good beginning. 

Anyway, back to the 11 on 11's. Champ Bailey gets a warm welcome from the crowd as he sets up right in front of me. Orton hands off to Knowshon Moreno and then we see the first pass of Training Camp. It goes to Matthew Willis and the crowd is happy, actually cheering Orton on. Lance Ball gets a carry and then Brady Quinn passes to Spencer Larsen as he circles back on a Wheel route after being in motion pre snap. Andre' Goodman and Champ Bailey are the Cornerbacks. They are joined by a Safety pairing of Darcel McBath and Kyle McCarthy. Renaldo Hill and Brian Dawkins are sitting this practice out.(As a sidenote, during the ride up to practice, I was told on the Mike and Mike show that the veterans aren't required to show up until next Thursday, August 4th). I see Eric Decker looking on as Eddie Royal and Brandon Lloyd line up. The Offense is running a 2 Receiver, 1 Tailback and 2 Tight End set. I notice right off the bat, that the Defense is shifting pre snap and running stunts. The Kaptain likes that. So far the practice is running crisply and at a good pace. I remind myself that it is still early, but the optimist in me is enjoying the endorphin rush. So far, Eddie Royal and LenDale White appear to have overcome their injuries, but I will stay vigilant. The tempo during the 11 on 11's varies from half to three-quarter speed. Orton completes a quick out pass to Matthew Willis and I notice the new behemoth at Right Tackle--Orlando Franklin (74). Folks, he's a big boy. Louis Leonard looks pretty big on the Defensive side of the ball also. It is hard to tell which player is playing which Linebacker positions because they are changing alignments pre and post snap. Rookie Mike Mohamed (53) starts at SAM and then D.J. Williams changes with him from the MIKE. Lee Robinson is getting snaps at the WILL Linebacking spot. Rookie Tight End Julius Thomas goes in motion and Brady Quinn throws a completion to Richard Quinn out of a 2 Tight End set and I ponder the "Q and Q connection" moniker for a brief moment. Kyle Orton hands off to Lance Ball and Ball again stands out to me. The next play is an End-Around to Eric Decker. Knowshon runs off Tackle and the #2 Units rotate in. Tim Tebow and Adam Weber trade reps with the 2's over at the far field 11 on 11 drills. Brady Quinn misses Matthew Willis on a sideline out and is mad at himself. HORN.

The team assembles at the Goal Line for Rich Tuten's stretch session as a couple of assistants set up pylons at the 40 yard line. Then coach Tuten puts his minions through the stretch interval with a "ReadyGO!"(yes it's all one word). The team goes back and forth from the Goal to the 40, completing Butt kicks, sidestep crossovers, back stepping and long stride lunges. They end with some slow side lunges to stretch out the groin and then spread out for upper body stretching. It appears to me that Rich Tuten is being more specific here, stressing proper alignment and stretching, including foot placement. He tells the players not to fake it. Apparently the Broncos are being careful here due to the long layoff. This elicits another smile from me. I take a moment to take a few pictures and hydrate. It's getting hot now. Interns set up the "Running Lane" mat and the Running Back hurdles. HORN.

The Offense and Defense go their separate ways and the QB's and Receivers begin with some short passes. Orton hits Royal on a swing pass to the left. Then Tebow passes to Eric Decker on a bubble screen to the right. Brady Quinn completes a pass to Britt Davis and I see Spencer Larsen lined up as a wideout. Kyle sails a pass intended for Brandon Lloyd. Tebow hits Willis on a bubble screen and Brady Quinn passes to D'Andre Goodwin (16). Kyle Orton play-action pass to Richard Quinn. HORN.

The players assemble with their position coaches for some individual instruction as the water boys attend to player hydration. Adam Weber stands aside while the other 3 QB's line up across the width of the field and run play-action passes to the Running Backs. This is done simultaneously with the quarterback in the center calling cadence. All 3 QB's rotate, so as to each get a turn calling the signals. They are taking hand-off snaps from the ball boys and this is all done uptempo. Adam Weber gets a chance to rotate in, but it is clear that Orton, Tebow and Quinn will get the majority of reps. The Wide Receivers join in and they run passing drills two at a time, using different patterns. This continues at the uptempo pace. The Receivers are  Jamel Hamler (11), Matthew Willis (12), Eron Riley (13), Marshall Williams (14), D'Andre Goodwin (16), Eddie Royal, Mark Dell (83), Brandon Lloyd and Eric Decker. They run short post patterns and slowly work to the longer pass routes. The Running Backs run slaloms through cones, the Linemen and Tight End's block against each other. Tebow and Royal can't connect on a square in. Adam Weber shows that he has a decent arm. The 4 QB's rotate with each other two at a time and the pace is too fast to comment individually, but the drill goes crisply. Brady Quinn sails a pass badly enough for QB coach Adam Gase to comment. The coach is telling all the QB's to put more air on on their passes during this particular drill. Kyle Orton completes a deep out pass to Eron Riley and I notice that Riley has a nice easy stride that has that look of lulling a Defensive Back, but then turns on the jets. The kid is a good leaper too. The Quarterbacks start zipping quick outs to the Wide Receivers with rapid repetitiveness. I don't know about Brady Quinn, but Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow have been working during the lockout and it shows. That can only be good news to you Bronco fans. HORN.

Tebow fires a couple of passes to Champ Bailey as they set up for a Wide Receiver's vs. Cornerbacks drill directly in front of me. Tebow, Quinn and Weber rotate reps, while Orton directs the rest of the Offense in running drills at the other end of the field. CB's Brandon Bing (45) and James Rodgers (43) get valuable reps during this drill. After a few minutes, Orton and Tebow switch drills. Orton passes to Royal with Cassius Vaughn covering. Adam Weber gets quite a few reps during this session and starts putting more heat on the ball. He makes a slightly high throw that Mark Dell reaches up and grabs in front of Brandon Bing. Orton completes a pass to Eric Decker in front of Champ Bailey and Decker has room to turn upfield. Matthew Willis knocks his coverage man to the ground on an Offensive Pass Interference push off. Mark Dell fools Cassius Vaughn, turning him around 360 degrees. Brandon Bing makes a nice Pass Break Up on the following rep. Orton passes incomplete deep to Decker. It went out of my line of sight so I couldn't tell where the pass was, but James Rodgers had good coverage on the play. Matthew Willis makes a good catch in front of Syd'Quan Thompson and Adam Weber is nearly picked off on a deep out. Jeremiah Johnson looks shifty over on the Running Back drills. The Cornerbacks decide to send a message to the Wide Receivers as multiple passes are broken up. That message? "Don't be soft." The Running Backs are  showing serious effort. HORN.

First Team 7 on 7's begin the next segment. Linebacker coach Richard Smith is stressing "speed" to his pupils. Head coach John Fox puts in an appearance, but I don't notice because there is too much happening. I see Spencer Larsen getting reps at Wide Receiver and I wonder if this is for a future mis-match, or they are trying something different. There is a little light contact between Receivers and Cornerbacks in this session. Tebow throws a high wobble deep over the middle that should have been picked off had it not been tipped twice downfield. I don't know what happened, but that was a horrible pass. The Chain Gang appears and they set up for situational drills. Tim Tebow gets the first 4 reps before making way for Brady Quinn. Eron Riley leaps up to make a nice catch on Quinn's high pass. Brady sails another and then fires a good pass over the middle that rookie Fullback Austin Sylvester (40) juggles before Syd'Quan Thompson takes away from him. HORN. 

The JUGG's machine returns to the 30 yard line and more punt coverage and blocking drills happen. Eddie Royal and Syd'Quan Thompson field punts by Britton Colquitt and the JUGG's machine. Squid muffs a punt by the machine and Colquitt forces Eddie back to field a punt. David Bruton is calling signals while Lonie Paxton snaps to Britton Colquitt. Gunners practice their release and Get Offs and Colquitt is booming punts again. Syd'Quan muffs a punt from Colquitt. HORN.

11 on 11's. Knowshon Moreno gets a carry. The Defense shows a lot of pre-snap movement. Kyle Orton hooks up with Brandon Lloyd on a good play with Champ Bailey covering. Matthew Willis catches an Orton pass. Tebow passes a wobbly uncatchable short pass to Knowshon that is broken up. On the next play, Tebow makes a nice crisp pass to Willis and then a completion over the middle to LenDale White who playfully bulls his way past the Defensive Backs around him. The next snap is play-action and Mario Haggan knocks the ball out of Tebow's hand because the QB was holding the ball low. Brady Quinn rotates in and hands off to Brandon Minor who looks good despite running at three-quarter speed. Mario Fannin gets a carry and then Brady Quinn fires a high pass that Marshall Williams (14) manages to grab. HORN. The QB's got three or four consecutive reps during this segment, which may have allowed them to get some rhythm. 

7 on 7 drills. Eddie Royal looks healthy to me, catching passes in traffic. Richard Quinn catches another pass from Orton and turns upfield. Royal catches an Orton pass on a quick post over the middle. Tebow completes a pass to Dan Gronkowski and Gronk fumbles. Tebow makes a good pass to Mike McLaughlin (39) and then completes a 10-yard out to Eric Decker that E.D. turns up field. Tebow completes a swing pass to Jeremiah Johnson out of the backfield. Brady Quinn connects with Eron Riley. The Defense tried to strip the ball from Riley, but he wasn't having any of it (good play). Quinn passes to Mario Fannin (this kid looks good). Brady throws a low pass that Mark Dell catches with his legs and transfers to his hands, then Quinn completes a 10-yard out to Marshall Williams. The pass was wobbly, but good enough to complete. HORN.

11 on 11's. Orton turns around with the entire Defensive Line in his face on play-action. That Sack was on the O-Line. On the next play, not so "Big Vick" bats down Orton's pass at the Line of Scrimmage (good penetration D-Line). The next snap is a play-action End Around to Eddie Royal. Orton and Royal connect on a skinny post off play-action. Tebow sails a deep out that had way too much air. On the next play, the pocket collapses and he gets back to the Line. Tebow makes a real nice pass to Eric Decker on a post over the middle and then Lance Ball gets a carry. A whistle blows and the number two's replace the 1st unit. Quinn has another high pass to Eron Riley that is taken away the Defense. He caught the ball , but couldn't come down with possession. The 1st unit returns and Orton throws a pass wide that is intended for Britt Davis. James Rodgers was in coverage, but couldn't reach it either. Kyle then throws a deep out to Lloyd. Knowshon takes off on a long run. (he hasn't pulled a Hammy yet, fingers crossed).  Orton completes a bubble screen pass to Royal. HORN.

Special Team's session with the punting unit. Britton Colquitt and the JUGG's machine trade reps and Perrish Cox joins Royal and Squid fielding punts. It's 11:00 now and practice is running longer than scheduled, but I don't complain. Coverage lanes are laid out with stubby pylons and live punt drills begin. Coach Rodgers is stressing emphatically for the Gunners to Get Off cleanly. The JUGG's machine puts up a wobbly kick that Squid allows to fall and fails to field. (I didn't know the JUGG's had a setting for wobbles). Colquitt turns over a towering punt that  forces Eddie Royal back. This time I almost get to six one-thousand counting the hang time on that punt. Cassius Vaughn and Britt Davis are the Gunners. Nate Jones, Erin Riley and Chevis Jackson get reps as Gunners too. The final HORN sounds, signalling the end of practice and John Fox addresses the team huddling at midfield. 

The players break up into groups and take a ten minute cool down session before the Offensive Linemen come over for the autograph session. I manage to get Ryan Clady and Orlando Franklin to sign one Ball cap. Orlando took 1st team snaps at Right Tackle all practice and let me tell you, the guy is even bigger close up. He joked about the altitude getting to him a bit when a fan asked him how he was doing. He remarked that he was missing the sea level Miami, but I replied at least the humidity wouldn't get to him. That got a smile out of him. Next up, I got another hat signed by J.D. Walton, Zane Beadles and Chris Kuper, who were all three in good spirits and thanked me when I wished them a healthy and productive season. I mentioned to Zane Beadles that the team didn't look rusty and that I thought they had a good practice. He agreed but said that he would reconsider that comment after about the 5th practice. After that, I made my way over to the team store since I didn't see any other signatures I wanted. I picked up some goodies that were requested by the staff and as I exited the store, I heard a big cheer and figured that Tebow came back out to sign autographs. I figured right and made my way back down the length of one and a half fields, but when I got there, he was nearly finished. Oh well, another day perhaps. It looks like I will have enough time to post this and get a bite to eat before the afternoon/evening practice. Don't wait up, the next edition might not get posted until after midnight. I still have to drive home and rest up for tomorrow afternoon's practice.

Photo by Kaptain Kirk 7/28/11

My overall impression of the first practice? I thought it went better than I expected. Was I pleasantly surprised? Not really, but I am enthused that football has returned to the Mile High City.

Go Broncos!

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