On a hot Friday in Dove Valley that ran from the morning to the early afternoon, Broncos players participated in the second practice of 2014 training camp. As the heat reached its crescendo, so did the Broncos defense, building upon previous plays to continue to stifle and frustrate the offenses led by Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler. A pressure one play became a holding penalty a few plays later. A batted down pass one snap became an interception the next.
"We had a good practice as a defense today," safety T.J. Ward said. "When somebody makes a play, you definitely want to let them know. Motivate them, get their energy up, because then it gets the whole defense's energy up. And then you see the chain reaction, and everybody starts making plays all over the field."
Take early in the practice, with Peyton Manning running a two-minute drill. Defensive end Quanterus Smith was able to get around Chris Clark with an impressive spin move that led to coaches and players shouting, "Nice move Quanterus!" A play later, Brandon Marshall was able to haul in a Peyton Manning interception. While the pick was called back due to a Quinton Carter penalty, it emphasized Ward's point that this Broncos defense is using momentum to build upon its successes and make even greater ones.
That was even more evident later in the session when the first team offense facing the first team defense. The defense continually pressured Peyton and got in the backfield, with Sylvester Williams and Terrance Knighton tackling Montee Ball for a loss just a few plays before DeMarcus Ware was held by Chris Clark on a 3rd and 10. Two plays later, Williams jumped a Peyton Manning pass at the line of scrimmage and snagged an interception for the Play of the Day. A botched lateral to Q. Carter notwithstanding, it was a great play by Williams that showed both his athleticism and awareness.
"That was a great play," said Ward, laughing. "That was Sportscenter Top 10 right there."
RB Brennan Clay had a right thigh bruise, according to head coach John Fox, adding that it was "nothing serious." Otherwise the injury report was the same as yesterday, with a few minor injuries here and there and Kevin Vickerson (hip) and Von Miller (knee) limited. Chris Harris (knee, PUP list) again watched from the sidelines and stretched here and there.
Since the defense dominated, they get to go first in my practice report.
It was not fun to be a Broncos offensive lineman today.
I saw every notable Broncos defensive lineman you want to hear about make a play at some point during the day. Of course, Sylvester Williams made the highlight reel P.O.T.D., but his defensive tackle teammate Terrance Knighton looked just as disruptive against both the run and the pass. I mentioned the pressures by Quanterus Smith and DeMarcus Ware earlier, but Derek Wolfe also had a great practice, even making Ryan Clady look out of place at times. Malik Jackson got his looks too. It was a terrific practice for the defense as a whole, but particularly for the defensive line.
I know someone requested I try to interview Q. Smith, but I missed him coming off the practice field. Hopefully I will grab him Sunday at the stadium practice.
Von Miller continued to sit out full team work, but he was present in 7-on-7's. He looks lean and ready for a comeback in 2014. Danny Trevathan had a great day in coverage - one ball thrown to Montee Ball by Peyton was just unbelievably well-placed, and I can't believe Ball caught it despite Trevathan's terrific coverage. Sometimes there's nothing you can do against a Hall of Famer.
As far as backups go, Brandon Marshall stood out among this group with the interception as well as another pass breakup. Steven Johnson boasted a BPU of his own.
Aqib Talib had a good practice, knocking down a pass intended for Emmanuel Sanders on one play I saw. And with Chris Harris, the presumed #2 cornerback, sidelined, the really interesting camp battle is that brewing for the third cornerback spot between Kayvon Webster and rookie first round draft pick Bradley Roby. Webster had another fine practice, while Roby is visibly struggling. He got beat badly by Cody Latimer on a deep pass from Peyton Manning. After the play, Talib came to Roby with some advice.
More from Day Two
More from Day Two
"Just stay disciplined. I was guessing on the route," Roby said. "That's been a problem for me, and I'm just working on that. I can't be anxious to make a play. Let the play come to me. That's all he was saying."
Right now Webster is clearly ahead of Roby in the battle for third cornerback, and Omar Bolden is pushing Roby too with another fine practice of his own, but it's too early to be alarmed.
Finally, remember Louis Young, the undrafted rookie cornerback who had a hand in two takeaways on Thursday? He was back on Friday, this time intercepting Brock Osweiler on an errant throw that was a bit of a "gimme" play, but he did have to run to the football, and he made the pick all the same. Young earlier got beat deep to allow a touchdown, so he's not infallible, but he's becoming one of my favorite guys to watch at camp.
It's David Bruton and Duke Ihenacho filling in behind starters T.J. Ward and Rahim Moore. Not a lot else to report on this group today. Quinton Carter had a shaky practice. John Boyett, a first-year player out of Oregon, got in my notebook a couple of times, including for a pass breakup thrown from Brock Osweiler.
While the defense had its share of takeaways, I don't want it to sound like Peyton and Brock Osweiler were terrible; the quarterbacks made their share of plays, too. Peyton Manning is Peyton Manning, and while I would love to avoid the effect called "Peyton Manning hypnosis" I mentioned last year, he's kind of a known quantity. You expect nearly every one of his throws to be on the money, and they are. You know he's going to get the football out in time, and he does.
A bit more interesting is scouting Brock Osweiler, and noting his improvements from a year ago. Brock made the best throw of practice - the best throw of training camp so far - with a rollout in team drills that was all the more impressive in that it was to his left. From the 40-yard line, Brock threw to the end zone, where first-year receiver Greg Wilson was fighting to get open in the back corner. The accuracy and timing could not have been better, as Wilson snared the football in stride for a touchdown that traveled nearly 60 yards in the air. I was much more impressed with Osweiler today than yesterday, and I truly believe his throwing ability looks better than a year ago. He is willing to make the tough throws in traffic that he didn't dare to throw in 2013 camp, and he makes them too, as evidenced by Gerell Robinson's leaping catch between a near-colliding Steven Johnson and Bradley Roby.
I can't wait for the pads to come on so this group can really be scouted. Every one of these undrafted rookies and second year players is having their moments. Ball is clearly the starter - that catch from Manning vs. Trevathan, wow - but it's impossible to say anyone is standing out behind him. Brennan Clay has gotten the most work with the 1's as far as new guys go, while Kapri Bibbs and Jerodis Williams have both gotten into my notebook with impressive runs.
Julius Thomas continues to be Peyton Manning's favorite overall target with Demaryius Thomas absent, but Manning did spread it around quite a bit today. Jacob Tamme and Gerell Robinson both had nice practices, with Robinson hauling in consecutive catches from Osweiler in 11-on-11 work.
The longest touchdown of the day was again caught by Cody Latimer, but this time it was Peyton Manning doing the throwing instead of Brock Osweiler. I have to admit, I was excited before the snap even happened. It was the first play I saw with Latimer lining up with Manning, taking the place of Andre Caldwell. Latimer snuck behind the defense, beat Roby on the play, and easily caught Manning's perfectly-placed pass.
Emmanuel Sanders and Andre Caldwell had decent practices, although Sanders did have a drop so he'll grade himself "below an F" again. I'd give him a B. Wes Welker was competing with Julius Thomas for "favorite target" status as Manning went to him consecutive times in 7-on-7 drills.
One player I like, emerging from deep down the depth chart, is first-year wide receiver Greg Wilson. He must have had five or six catches today, all in team work; with limited snaps, that's an impressive feat. He was the receiver of Brock's best-throw-of-camp nearly-60-yards-in-the-air rollout, but he was a target of Brock's early and often. He beat Bradley Roby for another deep catch on an out route from Osweiler, and it was clear the two have built a rapport.
Indeed, Wilson and Osweiler worked out together this offseason. Said Wilson, "Just trying to build that relationship up."
"My main goal is to just make the 53-man roster," Wilson continued. "If I don't make the team here hopefully I'll make it somewhere else."
It was a tough day for tackles Ryan Clady and Chris Clark, who were each beaten by Wolfe and Ware respectively in team drills, while I saw Manny Ramirez get burned by Ware on one inside move as well. Chris Clark again started at right tackle with Orlando Franklin at left guard; I don't expect that to change despite the rough outing. Hopefully the offensive line as a unit bounces back when the pads come on tomorrow.
Usually the 10-minute special teams portion of my practice is my chance to run into the media room and grab some water. There's just not a lot to talk about until the pads come on. I will note that, in kickoff return duties today, we saw Cody Latimer, Bradley Roby, Ronnie Hillman, Isaiah Burse, Andre Caldwell, and Omar Bolden. Nice mix of expected guys and surprises there.
The lighter side
With the big Manchester United / A.S. Roma game scheduled for this Saturday at Sports Authority Field, members of both soccer teams were special guests at today's training camp practice at Dove Valley. They gave better meaning to the term football by practicing the sport the only way they know how: with their feet.
Look out Matt Prater.
"It's perfect for me. It's really not just man. It's a mix of zone and man. It gives you a chance to look at the quarterback and break a little bit and a chance to play on the line of scrimmage. It's kind of the best of both worlds." - Aqib Talib, on Jack Del Rio's defensive scheme.
The Broncos' next practice - in pads! - will be on Saturday at 8:50 a.m. They will also hold an evening walkthrough. Kaptain Kirk and Casey Barrett (MHR photographer) will be there, while I take one day of my vacation to go hike a 14er.
The first public practice is the next day at Sports Authority Field at 11:30!