AFC West: Denver Broncos

Broncos Camp Report: Day 9

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
6:15
PM ET
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Denver Broncos training camp:
  • Backup quarterback Brock Osweiler will get a rather tidy training camp exam Saturday morning. The Broncos will hold their annual practice/summer scrimmage at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. And after some of their usual drills to open the workout they will send the No. 1 offense against the No. 2 defense for 12 plays of live tackling. And that means Osweiler and the No. 2 offense will try its hand against the No. 1 defense. "Brock is really going to have to be smart and moving the ball well against the 1s," Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase said. The combination to keep an eye on, at least if the last few days of practice are any indication, is Osweiler and undrafted rookie Bennie Fowler. The two have connected on several big plays, including touchdown throws Thursday and Friday. Fowler has worked with the second-team offense lately and if he's on the field Osweiler will look his way.
  • The running back rotation in the scrimmage will bear watching, especially how things go with the second and third units. Montee Ball figures to get most, or all, of the carries with the starters with Ronnie Hillman working as his backup right now. C.J. Anderson is expected to run with the second team while Juwan Thompson, Kapri Bibbs and Brennan Clay will likely mix and match with the third-team offense. Thompson, however, has taken second-team snaps in camp in short-yardage work.
  • Following Friday's practice, Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio had high praise for cornerback Chris Harris Jr.'s work in coming back from ACL surgery in February. Harris was cleared to return to practice this week, less than six months following his surgery. "I've been around guys that have rehabbed and come back from injury, but I don't know if I've ever seen a guy more determined every day with great energy attacking it the way he did," Del Rio said. "He's really stayed engaged mentally in the meetings. He's worked extremely hard and been very diligent, and it's gone well -- no setbacks or anything."
  • Linebacker Jamar Chaney, who started 23 games for the Philadelphia Eagles earlier in his career and had a three-interception season in 2011, had a leaping pick on a Zac Dysert pass in Friday's red-zone drills. Chaney leaped high to tip the ball up and then caught the tipped ball. Chaney, who has worked with the third-team defense the majority of the time, faces a tight battle at linebacker for the last few spots. The team kept seven linebackers in the cut to 53 players in 2011 and 2012 to go with six at the position last season.
  • The Broncos' practice/scrimmage at 11 a.m. at Sports Authority Field at Mile High will be their only practice Saturday.
  • Odds and ends: Defensive end Derek Wolfe, who left Thursday's practice with stiffness in his lower back, was back on the field Friday ... Safety Quinton Carter, who is on track to make the roster after two missed seasons with knee troubles, finished his work in a team drill at one point in Friday's practice and jumped on a stationary bike to ride for a few minutes. He then returned to practice ... Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders reached high for a scoring grab in the back of the end zone in team drills, getting his feet down just before crossing the end line ... Hillman got a few carries with the starting offense in run-game work.

Broncos Camp Report: Day 8

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
9:45
PM ET
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Denver Broncos training camp:
  • The Broncos have found some pro personnel gems in recent seasons, veteran players signed to short-term deals with injury or performance questions in tow, who play their way into the rotation in Denver. Last year, Paris Lenon was a training camp signing who eventually started at middle linebacker. In 2012, it was safety Jim Leonhard, Justin Bannan and Brandon Stokley who turned a 1-year deals into premium snaps. This year it just might be defensive Marvin Austin, a former second-round pick by the Giants whose career has been de-railed by injuries, including a back injury with the Dallas Cowboys last season. Austin signed a one-year deal with the Broncos earlier this year, and coming off back surgery has said he's healthy and looking for a rebound. He has consistently flashed in practice thus far and dominated one-on-one drills with the offensive linemen Thursday, though he did have two false starts during one of his turns in the rotation. "He's come off of a fairly significant injury and he looks like he's got that explosiveness and quickness he had when he came out of Chapel Hill," said Broncos head coach John Fox. The Broncos, who kept 10 defensive line after cuts in 2011, nine in 2012 and eight last year, could be faced with keeping nine or 10 because of their depth this time around.
  • No. 2 quarterback Brock Osweiler has had some bobbles in this camp as the Broncos defense has turned up the heat on the offense as a whole -- Peyton Manning has had a far more difficult time against the team's re-vamped defense than he did in drills last summer -- but he continues to show plenty of progress as well. Thursday he showed plenty the scoring touch on the deep ball with two in-stride throws for touchdowns to Cody Latimer and Bennie Fowler, respectively. Latimer's catch was a double-take worthy one-hander in between David Bruton, Omar Bolden and Jerome Murphy as he crossed the goal-line.
  • As the Broncos went through short-yardage work in the run game, the defense got after it. Cornerback Aqib Talib stopped rookie running back Kapri Bibbs short of the goal-line in one set, safety John Boyett cracked rookie Brennan Clay on another and middle linebacker Nate Irving stopped Montee Ball cold in a goal-line drill. “We want to be nasty, we want to be aggressive," said linebacker Danny Trevathan.
  • The Broncos had some of the league's officials on hand for practice as part of the NFL's preseason tour. The players were shown a video outlining this year's rules changes as well as the “points of emphasis," which include downfield contact by defensive players on receivers as well as defensive holding. No flags were thrown on the defenders in coverage in Thursday's practice. The officials will be at Broncos' practices through Saturday's scrimmage at Sports Authority at Mile High.
  • Defensive end Derek Wolfe, who was pulled out of a practice earlier in camp with stiffness in his lower back, was taken out of Thursday's practice as well. Broncos head coach John Fox said; “(He) should be fine, we'll evaluate him day to day." The Broncos also held defensive end Chase Vaughn (right knee), defensive end Greg Latta (right hip) and cornerback Lou Young (groin) out of Thursday's workout. Defensive end DeMarcus Ware (lower right leg) was limited, but did return to the practice field for the first time since Sunday.
  • The Broncos have one practice Friday -- at 10:25 a.m. MT.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When former Denver Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno had scratched and clawed his way out of the depth chart doghouse to post his best season as a professional in 2013 (1,038 yards rushing and 60 receptions), running backs coach Eric Studesville said this:

Hillman
"I hope guys, young guys, older guys, anybody, look at what Knowshon did for himself, how he worked, how he carried himself to go from where he was to do what he did, and see that's exactly how you handle football adversity."

Well, consider the point taken. In a meeting room where no running back has played more than two seasons worth of games in the NFL, Ronnie Hillman was apparently paying attention.

While Montee Ball is this team's starter and the guy who will lug the rock much of the time, Hillman has the most potential to be a home-run hitter in the run game. Hillman's potential, though, has far outweighed his accomplishments.

Last year he was handed the first crack at the starting job in offseason workouts, but by the time the Broncos rolled into the regular-season opener against the Baltimore Ravens Hillman had just four carries in that game. By the eighth game of the season, Hillman was a game day inactive and eventually did not play in any of the Broncos' postseason games.

So it could be easy to be jaded about any uptick the Broncos say they see in Hillman's play because last season is still fresh in many people's minds. They've heard about potential before, heard what he could give to the offense.

"But I love what Ronnie has done," Studesville said. "From when we started this spring in April forward, he has been unbelievable. He's a completely different guy in the best possible way and I'm just excited about what he's doing, how he's approaching it, how he's making plays on the field. It's been great. It's been there the whole time, but we're finally seeing the maximum side of it. ... I didn't do a good job of bringing it out, but now we are, he's bringing it out."

During offseason workouts, offensive coordinator Adam Gase said the depth chart behind Ball was "wide open." Since the start of training camp, however, Hillman has been solidly No. 2 in the rotation. C.J. Anderson has nudged himself back into the No. 3 spot, for now, after losing about 20 pounds and rebounding from a sluggish performance in OTAs and minicamp. Rookies Juwan Thompson, Brennan Clay and Kapri Bibbs have also gotten some select carries in the No. 3 spot, while Thompson has had a few with the No. 2 offense in short-yardage work.

But it is an odd twist of fate and roster building that Hillman, who is entering his third season in the league after being a third-round pick by the Broncos in 2012, is the most experienced back on the team. Hillman has flashed his speed to the corner in the run game, the acceleration with a screen pass in his hands and far more willingness to dig in and take on a rusher in pass protection.

"Give a lot of credit to him," Studesville said. "For ... sitting back and looking at two years in the NFL, a talented guy who should be here, who's demonstrated he's got the ability to be here and wasn't playing for whatever reason. And he found a way to turn that around and turn our eyes around ... and we love what we're seeing."

Asked what he's learned along the way and Hillman has been quick to say "that you have to be accountable ... that I probably relaxed a little bit last year when maybe I shouldn't have. It won't happen again ... I come in here every day with a chip on my shoulder."

Hillman has also been savvy enough to add "you have to show it in how you practice and what you do in games. I want to make plays in games that help us do good things."
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Defensive end DeMarcus Ware returned to practice Thursday after missing two days' worth of practice with a bruised lower right leg. Ware was limited some but participated in some drills.

Ware
Ware suffered his injury Sunday in the team’s practice at Sports Authority Field at Mile High and had not practiced since. He had done conditioning work and looked to be running without any problems during the team's stadium practice Wednesday.

Defensive end Derek Wolfe, who was pulled out of a practice earlier in camp with stiffness in his lower back, was taken out of Thursday’s practice as well.

"(He) should be fine, we’ll evaluate him day to day," Broncos coach John Fox said.

The Broncos also held defensive end Chase Vaughn (right knee), defensive end Greg Latta (right hip) and cornerback Lou Young (groin) out of Thursday’s workout.

Safety John Boyett (back), who had not practiced this week, returned to practice as well. Boyett had a big hit in red-zone drills when he knocked rookie running back Brennan Clay off his feet.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos spent plenty of money trying to add a little more teeth to their defense this offseason.

Included in their ample free-agency haul were safety T.J. Ward and cornerback Aqib Talib. The Broncos wanted players like Ward and Talib because they want to be more physical on defense. The Broncos want to affect opposing wide receivers before those pass catchers get too deep into their routes, something they did not do consistently well last season.

[+] EnlargeTalib
Barry Chin/Getty ImagesFormer Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib was acquired to give the Broncos a more physical presence in the secondary.
But with that the league has also , again, told the officials to make illegal contact –- contact by defensive players in coverage outside the 5-yard chuck zone -- and defensive holding among the “points of emphasis" this season. The Broncos tied for the league lead last season in illegal contact and defensive holding penalties -- 16 combined, 13 for defensive holding -- so this is no small matter for the team on Front Range.

The Broncos will get their first look at what all that might mean Thursday morning when referee Scott Helverson and his crew is on the field for the team’s practice. During his time at the Broncos complex, Helverson will also meet with the players and coaches as well as show the league’s video about the rules changes and those “points of emphasis."

Broncos coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio have said they can adjust to how penalties are called if there is some consistency to how the rules are enforced.

“I think a lot has changed even since the owners’ meetings," Fox said. “They [the officials] have had plenty of meetings, they have had their offseason, they began their training camp, so it will be fun to get them in there and visit with the players and show the videos — not just rule changes but even the enforcement and how they are going to attack that in the preseason."

“You want to know how they’re going to call it," Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. “You know the league wants points, so you just have to play it how they are calling it."

Broncos Camp Report: Day 7

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
7:45
PM ET
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Denver Broncos training camp:


  • Maybe it was the weather, or that Demaryius Thomas still isn’t in the full rotation at wide receiver after missing the first five days of practices, or just the way Broncos defense was aligned Wednesday, but Wes Welker was quarterback Peyton Manning's favorite target in a downpour. Manning consistently worked the ball to Welker in both 7-on-7 and team drills. On a tough weather day the Broncos were at their catch-and-run best on offense. and it was difficult for the defensive players to keep their footing at times. Rookie linebacker Lamin Barrow slipped and fell chasing tight end Jacob Tamme at one point.
  • The practice was the Broncos’ second open-to-the-public session at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Despite the terrible weather and the fact the practice was a on weekday morning -- it started at 11:30 a.m. MT -- there were still 9,207 brave souls who came through the turnstiles. “I’ve got to give a shout-out to those fans," coach John Fox said. “It was very hard conditions to practice in, I thought our team handled it great ... people who don’t have to be here, those Broncos fans are tremendous, to weather all that for two-and-a-half hours." The last of three stadium practices will be Saturday.
  • The Broncos will get their first taste of what the league’s emphasis on illegal contact and defensive holding will mean for defensive players, as referee Scott Helverson and his crew will be in the Broncos’ complex starting Thursday. They will give a presentation to the Broncos players and coaches as well as call penalties in practices through the end of the week. “It will be fun to get them in there to visit with the players, show the videos, not just rules changes, but also the enforcement and how they’re going to attack that in the preseason," Fox said. It’s an important time for a team who wants to be more aggressive on defense, particularly in the secondary, where the Broncos have added Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward this past offseason. Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said the Broncos can adjust to how things are called as long as there is consistency. The Broncos were tied for the league lead in combined defensive holding and illegal contact penalties (16) last season.
  • Even with Thomas, Welker and Emmanuel Sanders already in the mix, the Broncos believed second-round pick Cody Latimer could find a way in the rotation when they drafted him in May. Latimer, who consistently won the ball on contested catches during his college career, has shown that aggressiveness already in camp. He made a diving catch on a throw from Manning Wednesday after splitting the Broncos' starting safeties and beating fellow rookie Bradley Roby for a grab up the sideline earlier in the day.
  • Undrafted rookie wide receiver Isaiah Burse has gotten plenty of work in the return game thus far. The Broncos signed him following the draft in hopes he could compete for the punt return or kickoff return job -- he had two punt returns for scores for Fresno State last season. Burse has flashed some of those skills while also bobbling a few in the early going but has also quickly learned a lesson of NFL life. “In college and high school I was able to dance. I would cross the field, stop and come back all across the field. The speed here is different ... Here you have to make a cut and go. You’ll be way more success if you just make a cut instead of dancing.’’
  • Odds and ends: The Broncos held DeMarcus Ware (right lower leg) out of Wednesday’s practice. Ware did some conditioning work off to the side and looks poised to return soon ... Kayvon Webster had a pick six on Manning, cutting in front of Welker to snag Manning’s throw ... Rookie cornerback Lou Young left the practice with a groin strain.
DENVER -- Menacing skies and a constant downpour could not dampen an all-smiles day for Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr.

That’s because a rain-soaked practice at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Wednesday was the first time Harris had worn a pair of shoulder pads since suffering a partially torn left ACL in the Broncos’ Jan. 12 victory over the San Diego Chargers in the AFC divisional playoffs.

And the perpetually-smiling Harris couldn’t have been any happier to be caught out in the rain.

“I know everyone always talks about Adrian Peterson’s comeback, but you all need to talk about my comeback because I came back a lot faster than Adrian Peterson did," Harris said with a laugh. Harris Jr. called it “an emotional day for me."

[+] EnlargeChris Harris, Jr.
AP Photo/Jack DempseyChris Harris Jr., shown during organized team activities in May, is on track in his rehabilitation from ACL surgery.
The fourth-year cornerback has been one of the most significant finds for the current Broncos regime. Harris was one of the last undrafted rookies the team signed following the 2011 draft. He quickly turned heads in his first training camp with his competitiveness and ability to play all over the formation -- none other than Champ Bailey said then Harris was going to stick “for a long time." Harris has grown into one of the defense’s most versatile and most important players.

His absence in both the AFC Championship Game and Super Bowl XLVIII forced the Broncos to mix and match in the secondary and deprived the defense of not only one of the starters at cornerback, but their best slot cornerback as well. Since his injury, Harris has plowed through his rehab and consistently said he would be cleared to practice shortly after training camp began, would be cleared for full contact by the third preseason game and ready for the Broncos’ Sept. 7 regular-season opener against the Indianapolis Colts.

“I’ve put in a lot of work these past couple of months," Harris said. “I'm just thankful and blessed to be back out here."

Said Broncos coach John Fox: “It was good to have him back out there; I know he was excited."

Harris had his knee repaired Feb. 6, three days after the Broncos’ 45-8 loss in Super Bowl XLVIII. So in just under six months, Harris has worked his way back onto the practice field. The cornerback visited Dr. James Andrews on Monday and was cleared to practice.

The Broncos only let him do limited work Wednesday in slippery conditions -- “they had to slow me down a couple of times, even in walk-through," Harris said -- and he will likely do individual drills and 7-on-7 work in the near future.

Harris is not expected to play in the first two preseason games – against the Seahawks and 49ers – and says he still hopes to play in the third preseason game on Aug. 23 against the Houston Texans. Harris has spent much of the offseason working alongside linebacker Von Miller, who tore his ACL in the Dec. 22 game against the Houston Texans.

“Just competing with him and him being ahead of me helped push me to get where he was faster," Harris Jr. said. “Actually I came back faster because he came back at seven months and I came back at six months. It’s not even six months yet for me, so for me to be back out here this quick is really incredible. Dr. Andrews was ecstatic about my recovery and I am just going to keep taking it slow so I will be ready to go."

Kayvon Webster has lined up at right cornerback in Harris' absence and Aqib Talib has played in the left cornerback spot. Rookie Bradley Roby has come in for the team’s nickel packages, with Webster often moving into the slot.

Harris' return will eventually adjust that rotation with Harris and Talib as the starters, with the hope Roby will be ready to play on the outside in the nickel by the start of the season, when Harris would move into the slot in the specialty packages.

“Just the first step, but it was huge for me," Harris said. “I’ll be back; I’ll be ready for the season, no doubt about it. Just write my name in there."
DENVER – In a driving rainstorm for much of their 2 1/2-hour practice Wednesday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, the Denver Broncos held defensive end DeMarcus Ware out of the workout.

Ware suffered a bruised lower right leg Sunday in the team’s practice at the stadium and has not practiced since. Broncos head coach John Fox continues to say Ware’s injury is not significant, but field conditions were slippery in an uncharacteristic storm that has dumped rain on the Denver area for the past two days.

Ware did some conditioning work on the side, including sprints.

The Broncos also held out defensive end Chase Vaughn (right knee), defensive end Greg Latta (right hip), safety John Boyett (back) and linebacker Shaquil Barrett (ankle). Cornerback Louis Young left the practice with a groin strain.

With Vaughn and Latta having missed several days of practice, the Broncos signed two defensive linemen Wednesday – Will Pericak and Cody Larsen, both defensive tackles – to bolster their numbers. Pericak played in college at Colorado and had been at some of the offseason workouts as a tryout player.

The Broncos' roster is now at 89 after the two signings.

 
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos haven’t had the usual throngs of their faithful waiting for them when they arrive at the practice field.

They've had no roars of approval for long passes completed or the customary oohs and aahs for interceptions, forced fumbles and Peyton Manning being Manning.

[+] EnlargeMontee Ball
John Leyba/The Denver Post/Getty ImagesMontee Ball seems to have Denver's starting tailback job wrapped up, but who will back him up?
As Manning put it, “It’s kind of going to be on us to keep ourselves going."

The Broncos, who will hold the second of three open-to-the-public practices at Sports Authority Field at Mile High as the $35 million makeover continues at their complex, are a deep team with very few roster spots truly in play. Still, after the first week of training camp, there are some questions they still need to answer in the coming weeks, including:

Depth chart at running back: Montee Ball was handed the starting job in the offseason, much like Ronnie Hillman was a year ago. Hillman didn’t keep the job, but Ball clearly will.

He’s shown vision in the run game, decisiveness in his cuts and consistent, quality work in the passing game. He’s poised for a big season and perhaps even the first 250-carry season for the Broncos since Reuben Droughns had 275 carries in 2004. Knowshon Moreno had 247 in 2009 and 241 last season, while Willis McGahee had 249 in 2011.

Hillman has also responded after a listless 2013. He’s been a little grittier in pass protection and seems to have learned the sometimes painful lesson that he has to stay on his toes to have a chance to stay in the lineup.

C.J. Anderson, Juwan Thompson and Brennan Clay will hash it out for the other spots. Anderson was sluggish in OTAs and minicamp at 234 pounds. After his performance in those offseason workouts, there were plenty of folks with the team who were not confident he would keep a roster spot at that weight.

He’s now about 215 pounds in camp and looks more like the guy who made the roster last season as an undrafted rookie. But all three of those backs should be camped out at special-teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers’ door because the No. 3 running back got all of 55 carries a year ago and might not get anywhere close to that this time around.

Right tackle: Chris Clark has worked with the starters thus far, but the decision hasn’t been made. He has struggled at times with some of the power moves from the Broncos’ defensive linemen in pass-rush drills and hasn't always gotten his hands in the right spots on initial contact. He played well in place of an injured Ryan Clady at left tackle last season, but the strong side is a different deal, and he hasn't yet slammed the door on the competition for the job.

The Broncos can help the right tackle with a tight end if they need to but would prefer not to have to. So, consider auditions still open, and the position will bear watching in preseason games.

Returner(s): There are some candidates who have flashed some explosiveness such as Hillman, rookie wide receiver Cody Latimer, undrafted rookie Isaiah Burse, Omar Bolden and Andre Caldwell, among others. But none of them has consistently caught the ball well enough in practice so far to be considered the front-runner.

At least one of them has to step forward in the coming weeks in the return game and handle the ball consistently. Otherwise the Broncos will be faced with eschewing the idea of an impact returner in lieu of simply fielding the ball without a bobble.

That would be an awful lot of field position left unsecured before the Broncos' offense takes the field.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- If you sifted through all of the words both the Denver Broncos’ football decision-makers and players have already said a week into training camp, there are three that have routinely been peppered into the conversations.

Toughness.

Attitude.

Mentality.

If you’re looking for a theme, a mantra, a way of doing things in the 2014 season for the Super Bowl hopeful on the Front Range, there it is.

“No question,’’ safety T.J. Ward said. “They already had a great team here, Peyton Manning, they won a lot of games. Some of us came in new and we just want to help, add a little thump if we can. I know I wanted to be a part of a team like this.’’

The Broncos are a week into training camp, and as we work through the hope-for-the-best stories about better leadership, depth and the luxury of the fresh start each summer gives to every NFL team, they are working to clear their own hurdle to go from last February’s Super Bowl loss to what they hope this season will be.

There was plenty good about what they did last season as the highest-scoring team, with the highest-scoring quarterback in league history. They can’t just abandon that because of one dismal February night. But for all of the records, fireworks on offense and piles of touchdowns, it wasn’t enough to win the title.

So, hence the search for toughness, for attitude and for what the team’s football boss John Elway has consistently called that “championship mentality.’’

Elway has said “it’s hard to win a world championship. Nobody just waves you by so you can walk up and have it handed it to you. You have to go get it.''

A few days into camp and it’s already clear, moving Orlando Franklin to guard should help. In live run-game drills, the Broncos showed the ability to move people in the middle of the field. They still haven’t found a right tackle -- Chris Clark has taken most of the snaps with the regulars -- to play as well as Franklin did.

But the Broncos want, and need, to be tougher on the interior, to run better inside, to protect Manning more consistently from inside rushers. Franklin can aid that cause.

Then there’s the defense, which got most of the attention and money in the offseason. And their progress, which includes the return of some players who were on injured reserve last season, can be measured in how much better they have stared down Manning and Adam Gase’s high-flying offense in their own practices so far. It isn't as if there is a more proficient offense waiting on the schedule.

It’s been far more difficult for the Broncos' offensive starters to move the ball on the defensive starters already. And it’s not because the Broncos have lost traction on offense, it’s because to 11 players across from it are better than they were in 2013.

DeMarcus Ware has the look of a team captain a few months into his tenure with Denver, and he physically looks as if he will make a high-profile team to the East feel some regret about losing him. And while the preseason figures to be two scoops of vanilla from Jack Del Rio and his cast, this defense should be top 5 if it’s healthy.

In the end, the games decide how much improvement was really made. Through the years, the league has been littered with team who are happy in the summer only to miss the playoffs when December rolls around. But if people believe they will see a shell-shocked Broncos team, still limping after a 35-point title game loss, they won’t.

They think that one is so last year.

Broncos Camp Report: Day 5

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
10:00
PM ET
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Denver Broncos training camp:
  • In what was the third practice in full gear, the Broncos went through several run-game situations in the red zone. They covered several short-yardage scenarios including third-and-goal on the 1-yard line. "We are introducing it as far as our installation and I think it builds a little toughness and it is a good way to start your live contact," said Broncos head coach John Fox. The starters were split fairly evenly, with the offense winning some, the defense others, but the second- and third-team defenses got the better of those drills this time.
  • Linebacker continues to be a spot where the Broncos have shown some quality competition and the kind of potential depth the team did not have last season after some injuries set in. Brandon Marshall, who spent the majority of the 2013 season on the Broncos' practice squad before he was signed to the active roster in the last week of the regular season, has made an early push for a roster spot. Marshall, with Von Miller still being held out of team drills, has even taken some snaps with the starters in some of the Broncos' specialty packages. Marshall has also been regular on the front-line special teams' units thus far. The Broncos kept just six linebackers on the roster when they cut to 53 players last season after they had kept seven in both 2011 and 2012.
  • The Broncos held DeMarcus Ware out of Monday's practices because of a bruised lower right leg. As a result Quanterus Smith lined up with the starters for much of the morning workout at Ware's right defensive end spot. In both one-on-one drills in camp's early going and in the team drills, Smith has shown he has the knack for finding a sliver of room to get to the quarterback. He also varies his looks and has shown more proficiency working to the inside than many young pass-rushers do, who often spend their entire college careers simply beating slower tackles to the corner. Potentially -- and again the games will tell the real story -- defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will have a quality mix-and-match in rush situations with Miller, Ware, Smith, Malik Jackson and Derek Wolfe.
  • The starters behaved for the most part, but things down the depth chart got testy as several dust-ups between the team's reserves broke out during practice. Players were separated quickly in each case, but those players searching for ways to climb the depth chart a bit were obviously trying to play with a bit of an edge. At one point head coach John Fox simply called it "wasted energy."
  • Second-round draft pick Cody Latimer, who missed most of the offseason work recovering from a fractured foot he suffered in a January pre-draft workout, has shown a little more each day of what he can potentially bring to an already high-powered offense. He had a quality catch-and-run score through the second-team defense on a throw from Brock Osweiler in team drills. Later he made a leaping catch on the sideline and almost made a diving grab on a deep ball Osweiler had put between safeties Duke Ihenacho and Quinton Carter. Latimer got his hands on the ball, but could not retain possession as he hit the ground.
  • Odds and ends: Undrafted rookie Juwan Thompson got some carries with the second-team offencse in the morning practice. … Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who had been excused since Wednesday night after the death of his grandmother, arrived back at the team's complex with about 30 minutes remaining in the morning practice and he took part in the evening walk-through. … Rookie cornerback Louis Young had some situational work in short-yardage with the second-team defense.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Just a few days ago, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning said because no fans have been able to attend the team’s training camp practices this year due to construction at the Broncos' complex, that the players might need something to boost them "especially when you get into that third or fourth padded practice and it’s kind of the dog days of training camp."

Well, Monday morning marked the team’s third padded practice of training camp and Manning took it upon himself to give the workout a little kick start. The Broncos routinely play music out of a speaker roughly the size of a Smart Car while the team stretches.

Each day brings a different musical selection from a different player or coach, ranging all over the genre map. Monday’s offering was "Rocky Top," a remember-when country song played at almost every play stoppage and/or touchdown by the University of Tennessee marching band – Manning’s alma mater.

So, as the song played Monday, Manning offered up the dance steps to go along with it. Punter Britton Colquitt, also a former University of Tennessee player, joined in as well.

The video of the five-time NFL MVP is already making the social media rounds.

"I love it," said defensive end Malik Jackson, another former Vol on the Broncos’ roster. "They need to play it every day. ‘Rocky Top’ is awesome. Go Vols."

"It was his day to pick the music so it wasn’t a surprise to me what it was going to be," Broncos linebacker Von Miller said.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- A day after being pulled from practice due to a lower right leg bruise, Denver Broncos defensive end DeMarcus Ware missed Monday's morning practice, too.

The injury isn't significant, but the Broncos were in full pads so they simply held the 10th-year veteran out as a precaution.

"Just a leg bruise; he’ll be fine," said Broncos head coach John Fox.

Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who has been excused since Wednesday night after the death of his grandmother, arrived at the Broncos’ complex with about 30 minutes remaining in practice, but did not participate. The Broncos do have a walk-through practice Monday evening.

The Broncos' players have Tuesday off.

Cornerback Chris Harris was also not at practice after he traveled to see Dr. James Andrews, the surgeon who repaired Harris’ ACL. Harris said this past weekend he believed the visit with Andrews was a formality and that he expected to be cleared to participate in practice at some point this week.

The Broncos will have to move Harris off the physically unable to perform (PUP) list before he can participate in practice.

Also not practicing Monday morning were: defensive end Greg Latta (right hip), safety John Boyett (back), tight end Jameson Konz (left hip) and defensive end Chase Vaughn (right knee).
Examining the Denver Broncos' roster:

Quarterbacks (3)

The Broncos carried three here last season and thought enough of Dysert to keep him despite a long list of injuries on defense that eventually saw five starters on injured reserve. It could be more difficult to use that third spot on Dysert again. The Broncos would like to, but it might be a luxury they can’t afford this time around, especially if they want a return specialist.

Running backs (4)
The Broncos kept five at this spot as recently as 2012, but this position shapes up to be a quality camp battle, and last year’s rookie to make it -- C.J. Anderson -- could certainly hold off this year’s crop. It would be a rarity to have two undrafted rookie running backs make the final 53, but Clay’s pass-catching ability is intriguing, and the 225-pound Thompson would give the Broncos a bigger back with an understanding of pass protections to go with some special-teams ability. Anderson has worked as the No. 3 for the most part in the first days of camp, but Clay has taken some snaps with the second team offense and Thompson has worked with the 3s as well.

Receivers (5)

The Broncos have two undrafted rookies at this spot who have turned some heads already -- Isaiah Burse as a returner and Bennie Fowler at wideout -- but Latimer will be the youngster on the depth chart barring an unexpected injury. Latimer and Caldwell give the Broncos some insurance against any potential concussion issues for Welker. Latimer figures to get plenty of quality snaps. The Broncos have kept five here for the past three seasons, although last year's five included returner Trindon Holliday.

Tight ends (3)

The Broncos kept four last season -- they kept three in 2011 and three in 2012 -- and Dreessen's knee troubles and his release just before camp opened means three is still the most likely number.

Offensive line (9)

The Broncos have kept nine players at this position for the opening week roster in all three previous seasons of the John Fox/John Elway regime, but with all of the shuffling in the search for swing players, they may feel the urge to add one here just in case. But the starting group up front looks to be Clady, Franklin, Ramirez, Vasquez and Clark. However, Montgomery could push hard at center and Justice got a long look at right tackle in offseason workouts and rookie Schofield should get a shot there as well. Perhaps Ryan Miller or Ben Garland could earn the extra (10th) spot.

Defensive line (9)

The Broncos kept 10 here in '11, kept nine in '12 and had eight on the opening night roster last season. They could trim to eight again if they have a glaring need elsewhere, but Vickerson and Smith are both coming back from stints on injured reserve.

Linebackers (7)

The workouts when the pads go on will mean plenty for this group, and there is room here for a wild card, including a late roster pickup, to make the depth chart. McCray likely would have made it as an undrafted rookie last season had he not been injured in the preseason. As it stands now, the final slot may be a battle between Brandon Marshall, who spent much of ’13 on the Broncos’ practice squad before being promoted to the active roster, and Chaney, who was a 16-game starter for the Eagles as recently as 2011.

Cornerbacks (5)

Last season, the Broncos kept seven cornerbacks on the opening night roster, including the injured Champ Bailey, but this time around Carter will enter camp squarely on the bubble, especially if one of the younger corners with some additional size, like rookie Louis Young, shows promise and some special-teams chops. But the top four spots are solidly in place, and the Broncos can sport the four-cornerback look they’d like to in the dime.

Safeties (5)

If Carter’s knee holds up in camp as it has through the team’s offseason workouts, he should be among the final group. Duke Ihenacho made the roster last season but will have a tougher road this time around. Bolden’s ability to be a swing player at corner and safety as well as having some potential as a returner gives him the edge as well.

Specialists (3)

The only question here is if a returner such as Burse or a player to be named later can show enough pop to lure the Broncos into keeping a return specialist.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos have a loaded roster with a future Hall of Fame quarterback and a revamped defense talking like it believes it can be every bit as good as the team's historical offense.

The defense has star power and big plans. They also had one major, front-burner goal for this training camp.

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning
John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty ImagesPeyton Manning played with his children, Marshall and Mosley, after the fourth day of training camp.
"No news, man," said cornerback Chris Harris Jr. "No news, get to work and just start the season."

Plenty of folks come to the mountains to get away from it all but it isn't a stretch to say the Broncos, after last year's tumultuous offseason/summer of headline grabbers, are looking to produce a six-week snooze-fest.

And after their first week of camp they have succeeded. New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is back on the field, New York Jets cornerback Dee Milliner says he's the league's best at his position, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was suspended for two games and Johnny Manziel is the most chronicled backup quarterback since Tim Tebow.

The Broncos? They are conducting training camp as an invitation-only affair this year. Fans have had to take a rain check of sorts on the annual rite of summer on the Front Range as a massive construction project at the Broncos complex has forced the team to keep fans away for all but three practices inside Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

"It makes it easier when they're around, for sure," defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson said. "So it's a little weird this year. But, man, we want to just get to work and get to the season. I think a lot of guys have thought that all offseason, get to work, grind it, keep our head downs, get through it and go play ball."

Last summer the Broncos had two front-office employees arrested on DUI offenses. The revelation of linebacker Von Miller's six-game suspension to open the regular season came down as camp got underway. Toss in some additional traffic violations to go with Miller's potential suspension appeal and last year's training camp was anything but quiet.

This year the snapshot of camp is not an intense position battle or a player wrestling an impending suspension from the league. Instead the 1,000-yard picture of camp's early going may be quarterback Peyton Manning's children -- twins Marshall and Mosely -- tackling Manning with smiles all around following Sunday's stadium practice.

What it all means is a discussion for another day perhaps, like say sometime in February. Last year the Broncos fought through the waves of events that followed them through the season, including coach John Fox's heart surgery eight games into the season, and ended up rewriting a section of the league's record book on the way to a Super Bowl appearance.

Granted the title game is an evening they'd rather forget for the most part and the Broncos have both noted, and publicly dismissed Seahawks' linebacker Bobby Wagner's claim they were "intimidated" and "timid" in Super Bowl XLVIII.

But in the end the Broncos have been boring thus far. Or just the way they wanted it until the games get played for real.

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