The original plan for early August was a road trip to Boston to take a truckload of things to my youngest daughter. When it became evident that the Boston trip was not going to be, my wife turned to me and said: "How about we go to Denver, you can visit your mom . . . and catch some of training camp?"
The arrangements were made in rapid order and we set off from Los Angeles to Denver, arriving just before the start of a Wednesday practice at Dove Valley.
After the jump, a few random thoughts that arose from my week in Denver.
1)It was great to be able to put some faces with names. I had the chance to sit with Kirk at both the Wednesday practice, and the Saturday scrimmage at Invesco Field. I had the privilege of meeting Oldcoachb at the Dove Valley practice. I was finally given the chance to meet John Bena after the Invesco scrimmage.
2)All three quarterbacks had moments where they looked very very good, and all three had moments to make you cringe.
3)Orton looked the sharpest overall. Quinn looked solid and reliable. Tebow looked good in one practice and not so sharp in the other.
4)Strange phenomenon of the day: As the Wednesday practice, some fans were making all kinds of disparaging comments about Orton prior to the start of the practice. As Orton started his reps, a lone voice yelled out, "Looking good, Kyle!" His first completed pass drew a smattering of applause. Each subsequent completed pass drew more and more applause and cheers. Enthusiastic support was being widely shown to Orton by the end of the practice.
5)Strange phenomenon of the day 2: Tebow received loud cheers when he first walked onto the practice field, as the practice wore on, his reception seemed to grow more and more lukewarm.
6)"I saw that, Kyle -- the old underhand . . . Overhand, Kyle, overhand." from Eric Studesville (RB Coach) after Orton threw an underhand toss to the running back during shovel pass drills
7)When not taking reps: Orton spent his time talking with wide receivers, running backs, offensive linemen and coaches and in watching other quarterbacks' reps. Judging by facial expressions and gestures some of it was discussing particular plays, some of it was telling jokes. Tebow spend some of his time talking quietly with teammates while watching other quarterbacks' reps, and consulting with coaches, but the majority of his non-rep time was spent off to the side throwing to an intern. Quinn spent his time standing with teammates watching other quarterbacks' reps.
8)A moment of fun: after RB Fannin ripped off a long run during 7-on-7 drills, Brandon Lloyd and Knowshon Moreno raced onto the practice field to laugh and dance around Fannin. Lloyd even jumped on Fannin's back at one point.
9)On the importance of knowing what play was called: There was one play in which Kyle Orton was jeered. He'd lined up in the shotgun with a RB to his left. At the snap, Orton inexplicably spun to his right, throwing his right hand in the air as he took a little jump to his right. The jeers came when the ball hit him in the back. The coaches stopped the action, talked to the players, then lined them up again. This time, the center snapped the ball to running back -- as he was supposed to have done the first time -- while Orton faked a reaction to a bad snap as misdirection. Tebow and Quinn were then lined up to repeat the exact same play.
10)"I feel like I'm getting to show what I can do." Brady Quinn in the Denver Post.
11)"Keeping Orton as the starter means we're trying to win now. Going with Tim Tebow is a developmental move. That's not a 'now' move. Would that (tick) me off? Yeah, it would. But at the same time I'm a competitor so I'm going to try to make it work." Brandon Lloyd comparing the current QB situation in Denver to the Tim Rattay/Alex Smith situation in San Francisco during Lloyd's last season there. He shared that he was mad when San Francisco chose to give up on the "win now" attitude in favor of development (reported by Jim Trotter in Sports Illustrated and repeated by Dave Krieger in the Denver Post).
12)"My goals are only for my team, and the goal is to make the playoffs." Eddie Royal in the Denver Post.
12)Impact rookie: Julius Thomas caught a scoring pass from Orton, Tebow and Quinn.
13)Graciousness in action: John Fox signed autographs after the Wednesday practice and was graciously willing to talk to any and all fans, as well as posing for pictures with fans whenever asked.
14)An attitude of attack: defenders were told by DC Dennis Allen to treat every ball that hit the ground as a fumble.
15)"We want to be a violent, aggressive defense that plays within the rules, but we're going to hit you as we can . . ." Dennis Allen in the Denver Post.
16)In the "may be trying so hard, he's going to get cut" category: Nate Jones may be feeling like he's got something prove. Throughout the Wednesday practice he was hitting receivers harder than any other defender, including one hit on Matthew Willis that drove Willis to ground and left the receiver limping for several minutes and having to sit out several reps.
17)Dave Krieger of the Denver Post has pointed out the question that nobody at Dove Valley seems to want to answer is : "Just how many games do the Broncos actually want to win this year?" The implication is that if Orton starts the commitment is to winning as many as possible. If Tebow starts, it's to develop for the future and have a possible shot at Andrew Luck in next year's draft.
18)A different view of the scrimmage at Invesco: from what I've read and heard, the purpose of playing the #1 offense against the #2 defense is for the coaches to evaluate the DEFENSIVE players. In other words, are the guys who will be backing up the 1st team defense up to the task of stopping a 1st team offense? The results were not encouraging: if not for Decker's foot coming down on the end zone line and two dropped passes by receivers (Decker and Ball) who were not being contested when the ball hit their hands, the 1st team offense would have walked away with more than 6 points.
19)A different view of the scrimmage at Invesco 2: Likewise, the purpose of playing the #2 offense against the #1 defense is for the purposes of evaluating the OFFENSIVE players. In other words, are the offensive backups up to the task of scoring on a 1st string defense? Again, the results were less than encouraging: the OL leaked pass rushers like a sieve, and the WRs did not seem to be able to gain separation from the DBs in time to keep the QB from getting sacked, the QB showed some flashes but overall did not do well consistently when he had time and an open receiver.
20)On the complaint of a "quick whistle" during the scrimmage: Do we really want the defensive players trying to hand our own quarterbacks their heads? The defense played at a significant disadvantage throughout both practices: they weren't allowed to hit the offensive players (and especially not the quarterbacks) in the same way that they would in a live game situation. Do we really want them to?
21)On the idea of splitting 1st team reps equally among all three quarterbacks: in talking with John Bena after the stadium scrimmage, I learned that John had witnessed the Cleveland Browns take that approach with Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson in 2009. The result? Two QBs, neither of whom was prepared to be the starter.
22)Not sure how this will be received, but Broncos fans had best be ready for Kyle Orton to be the starter in 2011. From what I saw during practices and have heard from the Denver based media, the only way Orton doesn't start is if he repeats the 3-interception performance of his first preseason game in Denver every time he takes the field in the 2011 exhibition games
23)On the difference a year makes: the players looked relaxed, energized and like they're having fun playing football as Broncos.
24)Highlight of camp: sitting with Kirk Davis (KaptainKirk) and John Bena in a pub after the stadium scrimmage watching Shannon Sharpe's Hall of Fame induction.
25)Preseason prediction: Julius Thomas and Von Miller have legitimate shots at Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the year respectively.
26)Hit of the day at the stadium practice: Willis McGahee taking Kyle McCarthy to the ground after a broken play during drills before the scrimmage.
27)Question out of curiosity: at what point does the statement about Tebow not being a good practice player but is able to play great in games start to ring hollow? How are the coaches supposed to trust his abilities if he cannot showcase them in practice? Also, I've always heard it said that a professional is the one who practices until he cannot do it wrong. Maybe Tebow needs to become a great practice player too, in order to win the starting spot.
28)On the "open competition:" I get the sense that Fox et al ARE running an open competition, that is, if Tebow can show he deserves to start, that he gives the team the best chance to win now, he'll unseat Orton as the starter (see #27 above).
29)Don't be surprised to see at least 2 rookies starting on the defense: both Von Miller and Rahim Moore have been looking very good in practice.
30)On the concept of the "eye test:" it might be helpful to remember that thus far the only "eye test" John Fox has to work with is the training camp practices. In those, Orton has clearly outplayed Tebow. Let's give the new head coach the chance to see the three quarterbacks play in the exhibition games before we become unglued over who starts.
31) In the "I gotta love the Miami media" category: first they went all-in on the Orton to Miami theme. Now that that's obviously failed, they've switched to the Tebow to Miami train. Wonder if Chad Henne is feeling as unloved in Miami as Kyle Orton must feel in Denver?
Trivia question: True or False -- there is a Denver Broncos alarm clock in the opening scene of the movie "Back to the Future."
(if you answered "true" you're right; and sadly it was my wife who noticed this, not me)
Just for fun, a few pictures from training camp (all taken by your's truly):
Richard Quinn gathers in a throw from Kyle Orton
Tebow sets to throw during wide receiver drills
Brady Quinn drops back to throw.
John Bena addresses the defense at Invesco Field (if you look closely, John is in the center, wearing sunglasses)