So, everyone, I hope you've had as much fun with the NFL starting back up as I had. We almost cancelled our trip to Denver this year, so I was elated when the lockout was lifted and my family and I were able to make yet another trip to the Mile High City to watch the Broncos practice.
I obviously had my hopes up this year, as I wanted to see Von Miller in person, and I wanted to see our quarterback battle. It's funny that even in a three hour practice session (or near that), I might not get to pay attention to every position group, but I did my best in the two practices I attended.
Let me put out this short disclaimer--you are not going to be pleased with everything I write. You are not going to agree with everything I say, but this is my opinion of what I saw. The only notes I took were mental, so bear with me on some of the exact details. I had a great time watching practices, but it was ugly for the Broncos at times, especially the first practice I attended, which was on Saturday morning. This is a very, very young team, and that was evident to me. The Broncos have some veterans sprinkled in there, but for the most part, this is a large group of young bucks.
I'm going to lay out my notes organized by position group, and what individual players stood out.
Quarterbacks (of course)
I was not all that impressed with Orton, so take it for what you will. On the first day of camp, he was very average. He made some good throws, he made some bad throws, but for the most part, Orton reads through his progressions and he doesn't often make bad decisions. That's always been his thing--don't put the team in a bad situation.
My dad had a better view of Orton for the first practice, and apparently when the play was going away from me, he looked better. Orton got significant amounts of reps with the first team on the Saturday practice, and on the Monday practice, he had taken over most if not all of the first team reps (from Brady Quinn).
Orton is our most polished quarterback. Mechanically, fundamentally--he is just better at the things a veteran quarterback would be better at. I believe the Broncos can win games with Orton at quarterback, but I don't believe Orton can win games for the Broncos. I think that's about the best way I can put the way he makes me feel.
Quinn was razor sharp during the Saturday practice. I remember stating out loud the word, "Wow" multiple times throughout practice while watching him throw. He went through his reads, then made a quick decision. The opposite was exactly what made Quinn look terrible last pre-season. He was indecisive, and he just looked lost. On Saturday, Quinn was tearing it up. He was dead on accurate and looked like a legit first round pick at the QB position. It was no wonder the Broncos were giving him first team reps.
On Monday, Quinn made nice throws, but he wasn't as sharp as he was on Saturday. He let some passes sail, and one really got away from him and into the arms of Chevis Jackson. Still, Quinn made the most impressive throw of practice when the Broncos were running red zone drills. He fit the ball into tight double coverage in the back of the end zone to hit D'Andre Goodwin in the back of the end zone (Goodwin looked good Monday, making a few acrobatic catches) for a touchdown. I actually thought the pass was picked off, that's how tight the coverage was.
I was overall very impressed with Quinn this camp. He has clearly made strides from last season, and obviously he's in great shape. Much better athlete than Orton, and he has just as good an arm. He's not as accurate, but he made all the throws he needed to.
I was vastly disappointed with Tebow in the first practice, but I also felt the frustration he must have felt. Receivers were running incorrect routes, the plays he was running were all dinky check down pass plays, and every throw he made was out of a three step drop and fire. That is not Tebow's game. Tebow's game is making plays, so take that for what you will. He over-threw fullbacks and tight ends and receivers on flat routes because the coverage was good and the guys he was throwing to did not get good separation.
It seemed as though Tebow's "swagger" was down on the first day I was there, and I could tell he was very frustrated. It showed in his passing performance that day, though he still made the most exciting play of practice. Tim rolled out of the pocket to his right, then quickly back to his left to avoid the defenders. He ran toward the sideline and saw Nate Irving bearing down, so he pump faked a pass and Irving took the bait, leaping into the air allowing Tebow to toss a shovel pass around Irving's body to Jeremiah Johnson, who ran for a first down. I was greatly impressed by the improv, but it was really a bright spot in a bad day for Tebow overall.
That being said, Tebow brought it on Monday, and I read a lot of good things about his performance on Saturday as well. One thing I notice about Tebow is that his throwing motion and mechanics are much improved. He makes drops and throws the ball like an NFL quarterback. Sure, he still has a different delivery, but he didn't have any passes batted down at the LOS that I saw in two practices, so his release is obviously higher. Another thing I notice about Tebow that I didn't notice from the other QB's was that he doesn't take mock sacks in practice. He makes decisions or runs before the defense bears down on him, and he gets rid of the ball.
I don't think practice is really Tebow's thing. It's too scripted and he's not a scripted player. I know for a fact that he can make all the throws he needs to, but Tebow is not a robotic quarterback. He has a very distinct style and you're not really allowed to play that style in practice. In the end, I was really impressed with Tebow on Monday, but he did kind of level off as practice wore on.
He was indeed working with the scout team, which is odd if the Broncos are even contemplating trading Kyle Orton. Still, that might be the tactic they are going with. Tebow's best opportunity to win the job will be when the games get started.
Adam Weber (rookie)
Weber was brought in as a camp and pre-season body, not a bad idea especially considering he had a solid career at the University of Minnesota (not really in terms of wins, but stats). I liked what I saw out of the youngster. He was mostly taking training camp in, getting a lot of mental reps, but he was solid when he threw the ball but obviously he's just a rookie and he had very limited reps.
I think he will be a candidate for the practice squad, and I think he has a chance to develop into a solid backup player.