On the fifth day of Broncos training camp, a few special guests observed practice. Former Broncos tight end Joel Dreessen, offensive lineman Chris Kuper, and receiver Brandon Stokley visited the UCHealth Training Center (I spoke with Stokley during practice, watch for a story on what he had to say later this week).
Linebacker Von Miller and safety David Bruton stepped out of stretches to come over and shake Stokley's hand, who was treated like a celebrity by much of the team's staff and trainers.
Kuper spent some time watching practice with tackle Ryan Clady, who is on the team's injured reserve list. The two linemen played together from 2008-13.
Latimer, Sanders among players dancing to music this morning.— Jon Heath (@JonHeathNFL) August 4, 2015
Tuesday's session also marked the first time this camp that the team has played music during the early portions of practice. The playlist included "Country Girl," by Luke Bryan. It's not hard to speculate who that song was played for.
It was a nice, sunny day with 4,787 fans in attendance.
Full practice report below.
Attendance and injury report
Tight end Jeff Heuerman (ACL), cornerback Tevrin Brandon (arm), defensive tackle Marvin Austin Jr. (groin) and linebacker Lerentee McCray (groin) did not practice. Defensive end Malik Jackson (calf) did not practice, linebackers Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall and receiver Demaryius Thomas were limited.
Tight end Virgil Green, running back Kapri Bibbs, and offensive tackle Michael Schofield were dinged up, coach Gary Kubiak said after practiced, but should be good to go on Thursday.
The team has off Wednesday.
Tight ends report
The tight end situation is one of the most interesting position situations this year, in my opinion. It appears that though Owen Daniels can block, he is the team's catching tight end. On two-tight end running downs, the team favors Virgil Green and James Casey. There's also Dominique Jones, who has had a good camp, and Joe Don Duncan, who has seen his reps at fullback increase.
Joe Don Duncan first on the field for Day 5 of #BroncosCamp. He's been turning heads this past week.— Jon Heath (@JonHeathNFL) August 4, 2015
If the Broncos view Casey as a third tight end option (and not just a tight end/fullback swing man), there's a possibility that the team will keep the first four mentioned players above as tight ends and Duncan as fullback. Duncan's versatility has stood out, and Kubiak spoke glowingly about him after practice today.
Watch for a more in-depth story on Casey and Duncan later this week.
Running backs report
The starting job belongs to C.J. Anderson (who ran well today), and the No. 2 job belongs to Montee Ball (who's been running tough all week). Behind those two, the competition is still open.
Juwan Thompson has seen third-team reps, as has Jeremy Stewart. Both have showed flashes of brilliance and at times they've both looked like better options than Ronnie Hillman. But Hillman has also had his moments, and he's even spent time with the first-team offense. Those three seem to be competing for the final two spots at running back.
As of now, Kapri Bibbs looks to be the odd man out.
Kicker Connor Barth went 4-of-4 on field goal attempts today, including a 50-yard attempt. He also appeared to be the best option for kickoffs, at least today. Being able to do both helps his chances.
Duncan has been a great receiving option in the flats and has been on just about every special team's unit. He spent some time with the first-team offense today, but it appeared that he ran a route not to Peyton Manning's liking, which does not help his case. That was likely the exception to an excellent camp for Duncan, though, and he's become the player to watch at camp.
Shane Ray seems to do something a little better every today. Today he looked good during one-on-one drills with the offensive line, at one point beating Schofield with a spin move (wonder who taught him that?). Ray will be a player to watch for when the team takes on Seattle ten days from today in their preseason opener.
If Brandon McManus was more consistent, he'd be pushing Barth for the kicking job. But he went 3-of-4 on field goals today. His kickoffs also only went a yard or so into the end zone, a few yards shorter than Barth's. A great preseason could help, but McManus has not been overly impressive at camp.
Punter Karl Schmitz kicked off today, but they only went a yard or so into the end zone. He did not get any opportunities to kick field goals today, and hasn't been as good as Britton Colquitt on punts. He'll have to improve quickly to have a shot.
Ryan Harris played right tackle with the first-team offense again today, but did not have his best showing. Von Miller embarrassed him during one-on-one drills, ducking under him and recording a would-be sack. Shaquil Barrett also beat Harris during one-on-one drills. There's a sense that the team's offensive line will be moved around during preseason, perhaps even with a veteran addition. Harris is still the guy on the right side for now, but Tuesday was not his best day.
I noticed that . . .
Andre Caldwell is all over the place. He spent some time returning punts and looked smooth, and he made a few nice catches during team drills. But he's also been scolded by Manning at times for his routes and today he dropped a Brock Osweiler pass when Omar Bolden hit him from behind.
Colquitt holds for field goals, and he's done a good job. His quick hands helped save a bad snap today and allowed Barth to get his attempt off, converting the field goal. That's another area where he has an edge of Schmitz.
Aqib Talib picked off Peyton Manning today (Manning later tossed a perfect pass right over Chris Harris' head to Emmanuel Sanders). Denver's secondary as a whole has looked good overall. Bradley Roby and Kayvon Webster give the team nice depth behind Talib and Harris.
Talib picks off Manning pass to end zone.— Jon Heath (@JonHeathNFL) August 4, 2015
At safety, it's T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart. Nobody has pushed Stewart for his job, but David Bruton has been the No. 3 guy.
Jordan Taylor had another nice catch today, but it's hard for me to view as more than a practice squad player at this point. Solomon Patton has played better than Taylor over the last two days.
Nobody is close to Louis Vasquez's level on the offensive line.
"Our backup group is probably the best that I've ever had," defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said of the team's backup inside linebackers after practice.
Check back later today for more photos and stories from Day 5.