July 29, 2012

Training Camp Update

Three days of training camp have come and gone. Here are some interesting points and news from training camp so far.

Day One
A total of 4,371 fans watched the Denver Broncos’ initial training camp practice of the 2012 season to mark the highest attendance total for a non-stadium practice in team history.

The previous attendance record for a non-stadium practice was 3,103 fans in the first training camp practice of the 2010 season (Aug. 1). The overall attendance record for a training camp practice occurred at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Aug. 7, 2010, when 20,782 fans watched the team’s Summer Scrimmage.

The only player absent from practice was wide receiver Brandon Stokley, who had the flu. Limited in practice today were defensive tackle Justin Bannan (calf) and defensive end Jamie Blatnick (ankle).

Depth Chart:
Ryan Clady, Zane Beadles, J.D. Walton, Manny Ramirez and Orlando Franklin made up the offensive line, as Chris Kuper continues his recovery from a Week 17 injury. Manning was quarterback and Willis McGahee joined him at running back in the backfield. Occasionally the team went with two receivers — Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas — and two tight ends — Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen. When there was a third receiver in, it was Andre Caldwell. When there was a fullback, it was Gronkowski.

On defense, Elvis Dumervil, Ty Warren, Mitch Unrein and Robert Ayers were the linemen. Wesley Woodyard, Joe Mays and Von Miller manned the linebacker positions. Champ Bailey, Tracy Porter, Mike Adams and Rahim Moore rounded out the unit in the secondary.

During one-on-ones between wide receivers and defensive backs, Caldwell drew the first big cheers from the fans. The receiver beat cornerback Tony Carter deep to the end zone, hauling in a long touchdown pass much to the crowd’s delight. It was just the first of several big plays for Caldwell, as he hauled in a deep pass from Manning on the sideline later during team drills.

A few other big plays included a Bailey breakup of a Manning pass intended for Decker, followed later a Decker sideline catch in front of Bailey. The battle between Decker and Bailey has continued throughout camp so far. Defensive tackle Sealver Siliga batted down a pass at the line during the final portion of team drills.

Quick Hits:
Decker, Porter, Syd’Quan Thompson and Drayton Florence took turns fielding punts during special teams drills.

Denver’s top pick, Derek Wolfe, saw some second-team reps on defense during Thursday’s opening practice.

After he was done taking first-team reps during the walk through on day one, Manning worked with Kuper on snapping the ball.

Also during the walk through Linebacker Von Miller found himself matched up on Joel Dreessen who was split out wide. Miller took that opportunity to work on his bump-and-run coverage technique.

Photos and Video:

Day One Photos

Day One Video One

Day One Video Two

Day Two

Wide receiver Brandon Stokley was back at practice, and guard Chris Kuper participated in several position drills.

Defensive end Jamie Blatnick (ankle) and defensive tackle Justin Bannan (calf) did not participate. Safety Quinton Carter was injured late in practice, and Head Coach John Fox said it "looks to be a right hamstring."

Quick Hits:
Due to the weather the team had to move they training. The team finished practice on schedule due to an efficient transition to the indoor facility — known as the "bubble." After leaving the Dove Valley practice fields, players got straight on buses to the bubble. When they got there, they got straight back to work on a walk through session.

The Broncos didn’t let a roof over their heads prevent them from practicing kickoff and punt return drills. Instead of Matt Prater and Britton Colquitt sending the ball skyward, coaches would simply wait until the coverage team took off, then hand the ball to the returner.

Offensive Line Coach Dave Magazu seemed happy with his position group’s performance on Friday, as he loudly praised the efforts of the unit throughout portions of practice.

Photos and Video:

Day Two Photos

Day Two Video

Day Three
The newest member of the Denver Broncos, safety Anthony Perkins, watched the walkthrough from behind the defense. The Northglenn, Colo., native got some welcomed news on his way to watch the Broncos’ morning practice.

Perkins worked out with the team during the rookie minicamp earlier this summer and has kept himself in shape since then, anticipating an opportunity.

"I was comfortable with how it went," Perkins said. I thought it went well. I thought I moved around really well. I got good feedback from the organization. I just wanted to stay in shape and make sure I stayed ready just in case."

After working out with Offensive Line Coach Dave Magazu’s son in Boulder, Colo., Perkins was headed to Dove Valley to check out the facilities when his phone rang.

"I got the call when I was about 15 minutes away," Perkins said of finding out he was signed. "It was a little unreal."

Perkins, who still watched the morning practice, stood next to and talked with Secondary Coach Sam Garnes throughout the evening walkthrough, trying to absorb as much as possible given his late start.

"At this level, every detail matters," Perkins said. "You’ve got to be detailed in every single thing you do. Practices like that, you’ve got to be good at the details. I’m kind of playing catch-up right now, trying to get into the playbook and making sure that I’m able to be as detailed as these guys are that are practicing out there."

The only player absent from Saturday morning’s practice was safety Quinton Carter, who injured his hamstring late in Friday’s indoor practice. Defensive end Jamie Blatnick was on the field but was held out of practice, Head Coach John Fox said, because of an ankle. Fox also reported that right tackle Orlando Franklin did not finish practice because of a "crick in his neck."

Depth Chart:
Bannan, who was limited in Thursday’s practice and did not participate in Friday’s session, saw a few first-team reps Saturday morning. He wasn’t on the line full-time, however. When Bannan was out, Mitch Unrein continued to fill his spot at defensive tackle with the first unit alongside Ty Warren.

Chris Kuper seems to be getting closer and closer to a full return to the offensive line, as he saw a handful of reps at right guard during team drills. When he wasn’t in, the position belonged to Manny Ramirez with the first unit.

The matchup was Decker against Champ Bailey — and Decker made a move that faked out the 11-time Pro Bowler. Bailey recovered, but Decker still made a bobbling, diving catch right in front of the crowd. Needless to say, the fans erupted.

Decker had another catch in front of Bailey later in one-on-ones, then when the offense switched to 7-on-7s, Manning hit Decker three straight times on the first three passes of the drill.

Decker had a few more catches during full-team drills, one of which was right at the sideline, and the receiver kept running into the crowd — much to the fans’ delight. After Manning and Decker exited the final team drill, they drew loud cheers from the crowd.

One-on-ones was an interesting drill for rookie cornerback Omar Bolden. On his first rep, he was faked out running to the middle of the field. The receiver stopped and cut back outside for a wide-open completion. On his next rep, however, Bolden intercepted a Brock Osweiler pass. Bolden’s back-and-forth drill continued on his next repetition, as Thomas beat him deep for a touchdown courtesy of a Manning pass, but he followed that up by snaring another interception on his fourth and final attempt.

The offense won the majority of the one-on-ones between cornerbacks and receivers — including a touchdown from Manning to Brandon Stokley across the middle, when Stokley outraced his defender to the end zone — but the defense had its say as well. In addition to Bolden’s two interceptions, Bailey easily swatted away a pass intended for Mark Dell, staying with the receiver stride-for-stride through each one of his breaks.

WRs vs. CBs wasn’t the only one-on-one drill during Saturday’s practice — running backs and tight ends worked to get open against linebackers as well. The most notable play from that session came from running back Jeremiah Johnson, who caught a one-handed, sliding touchdown past linebacker Mike Mohamed in the back corner of the end zone.

Johnson shined using his legs, as well, finding the corner to gain a chunk of yards during a full-team drill. In the same drill, rookie back Ronnie Hillman found some space as he turned the corner on the other sideline.

Linebacker Joe Mays had a big hit on running back Lance Ball lined up, but instead essentially chest bumped him and wrapped him up. The crowd recognized what would’ve been quite a collision had it been a game, letting out some "Oohs" and "Aahs."

During an OL vs. DL drill, guard Zane Beadles stopped defensive end Elvis Dumervil short of the quarterback, which drew a little shoving from both players after the play. Later, rookie Derek Wolfe — who worked at both defensive tackle and defensive end at times during practice — beat tackle Tony Hills to get to the hypothetical QB. In the same drill, Robert Ayers bulled his way through the middle of the offensive line to make a play.

Linebacker Steven Johnson had the second big hit of the day, this time meeting running back Mario Fannin in the backfield to loud cheers from the crowd.

Quick Hits:
Danny Trevathan is playing at the Weak side Linebacker position for a look. He will end up rotating with Wesley Woodyard at times throughout the practice, but in this part of practice, Danny is getting the reps with the 1st team.

Omar Bolden, Drayton Florence, Matthew Willis, Eric Decker, Syd’Quan Thompson and Tracy Porter are fielding punts shot by the Jugs machine to start practice.

Two Broncos Ring of Famers were in attendance to watch practice up close — running back Terrell Davis and linebacker Karl Mecklenburg.

The offensive and defensive linemen seemed especially excited to have pads on, as any drill they were involved in was physical and featured some loud popping of pads. That being said, everyone stayed on their feet for the majority of practice, as Head Coach John Fox has preached taking care of teammates.

During a drill early in practice designed around wide receivers blocking cornerbacks downfield, Bailey broke away from a Decker block to make the tackle, drawing cheers from the crowd.

A day after donning bright — almost neon — orange socks, linebacker Von Miller was back at it with neon green socks today. He was hard to miss throughout practice for that reason, but also for his play — he found his way into the backfield on a handful of snaps.

During one set of 7-on-7 drills, Miller instead worked with the defensive line, going one-on-one against offensive linemen to work on pass rush.

Decker, Willis and Syd’Quan Thompson fielded punts during special teams drills. During special teams drills, Osweiler worked on holding for field goals off to the side with long snapper Aaron Brewer.

Rookie guard/center Philip Blake worked on snaps with the quarterbacks during another set of special teams drills.

Photos and Video:
Day Three Photos

Day Three Video One

Day Three Video Two

That is it so far, enjoy the videos and photos ~ Aussie.

July 24, 2012

Training Camp Primer

As training camp draws ever near I wanted to take a look at what has been making news for the Broncos. There has not been much noise coming out of Dove Valley the last few weeks but it has really heated up in the last few days leading up to Training Camp. Mainly three news stories that we will continue to follow as they develop.

News Headlines

Ryan Clady Extension
If the DenverPost is to be believed the Broncos have offered Clady a contract in the range of a 5-year deal worth $50 Million, with $28 Million guaranteed. This is close to Top-5 money for the left tackle position. But there are reports out Clady is looking for 'Joe Thomas' type money (Thomas signed an 8-year, $92 million contract last August, with $44 Million guaranteed.) The two sides will continue to negotiate the terms in a hope to extend Clady soon but it is doubtful that would happen before Training Camp starts.

Elvis Dumervil Arrest
Elvis joins a long list of other players that were arrested over the offseason. The list can be found here.

Dumervil was charged by Miami Beach police with a charge of aggravated assault after he was accused of lifting his shirt and showing a handgun in his waistband during a road rage incident last Saturday on Collins Ave. in Miami's South Beach area.

Sources close to Dumervil say he was not wearing a gun. Further, the sources say the Land Rover Elvis was driving and the gun are not registered to him.

One of Dumervil's friends, Andy Auguste, was also arrested on an aggravated assault charge. The incident was reported on a 911 call by an employee at a nearby Victoria's Secret store. During the 911 call, the employee mentioned people screaming from a white Chevy Impala and a person brandinshing a gun from a Mercedes, but never mentioned the Land Rover or anyone it. The police report from the incident said Auguste was a passenger in the Mercedes.

According to the Miami-Dade County Court website, Elvis Dumervil has a preliminary hearing on his aggravated assault charge set for Aug. 16. Judge Darrin Gayles has been assigned to the case.

Dumervil will report along with his teammates to Broncos training camp Wednesday for meetings and conditioning. The team's first training camp practice will commence at 8:50 a.m. Thursday.

Elvis has stated the truth will come out and that he has nothing to hide. For his sake I hope that is the case but the Ginger Hammer may still come down on him with a suspension.

Colorado Aurora Shooting
As Colorado continues to mourn and try to understand the massacre at Aurora, the Broncos are trying to do their part and bring the community together. Broncos players visited victims in hospital to show support and hopefully put a smile on their faces. More info and pictures can be found here, here and here.

Peyton Manning also called hospital rooms to talk to some of the victims and listen to their stories, for more go here.

Champ Files with Thunderbirds
There is a nice gallery here of Champ's day with the Air Force but all I was thinking about was this video.

Training Camp Primer
With Training Camp only days away there are a number of key positional battles occurring. Almost every position has some form of battle or a point of interest that we the fan should watch closely. Below are my thoughts entering Training Camp on a position by position bases.

With new players and the integration of a new scheme/plays it is hard to know what to expect from the Broncos Offense. This will make it interesting viewing as we may see a few things the Broncos haven't done before or in quite a while.

This will be the first chance fans get to take a look at new starting QB Peyton Manning. It will give the fans a chance to gauge where they believe Manning is at compared to what has been reported. It will also be another chance for him to test his health.

The interesting battle happening at quarterback is for the No 2 job. Adam Weber twittered that he is in a competition with Hanie and Osweiler for that position. You would think Osweiler and Hanie are the favorites for the position with Weber a distant third but anything can happen.

Running Back
Who will perform and who will stay healthy is the question. It is almost every year the Broncos lose a running back in camp to some injury and the same will probably happen this year. Every RB position is open for competition but Willis McGahee should keep the number one job. The question lies in who will make up the remainder of the running back corps. From Knowshon Moreno, rookie Ronnie Hillman, returning from injury Mario Fannin and holdovers Jeremiah Johnson and Lance Ball. Plus a few other young backs that may be able to upstage the others. Ronnie Hillman is a lock to make the team. Moreno on the other hand should be a little worried. It is easy to say now that he is the second best or third best back on the roster. But if Fannin or JJ can set up their game it may move Moreno down into cuttable territory. Ball should not make the the team *fingers crossed*

We have two, Gronk and Sylvester. Only one will be kept but I do not see a big role for this position going forward.

Wide Receiver
Once again WR looks packed for the Broncos. Demaryius Thomas should have the No 1 spot locked down and Decker No 2. It gets interesting from there. It looks like the next three spots are between newcomer Andre Caldwell, the returning Brandon Stokley and the training camp destroyer Matthew 'Ninja' Willis. What order they are on the depth chart and the role they play will be decided in training camp. That makes 5 wide receivers but don't be surprised if someone else ends up in that 5. Mark Dell, D'Andre Goodwin and Greg Orton have been with the Broncos awhile and may push their claim for a starting role. Both Jason Hill and Gerell Robinson have the size, Hill also has the athleticism, to push for a spot in the top 5. Willis and Stokley beware. If reports are to be believed Eric Page may be the shoe in for return duties but this is not a certainty. This raises another question whether the Broncos will carry 6 WRs or 5 with the 4 TEs. Will the return duties and that roster spot be used on another DB?

Tight End
There will be four tight ends barring injury. Joel Dreessen, Virgil Green, Jacob Tamme and Julius Thomas. There are a number of others but I doubt they dislodge these four. Dreessen and Tamme are the starters now. Thomas needs to come in and have a good camp to figure in some playing time and leap frog the other two. Green needs to improve also but I think he still makes the 53. If the Broncos need a roster spot for other players Green's may be in doubt if he doesn't perform.

Offensive Line.
I envision the offensive line to be the same as it was last year. Clady, Beadles, Walton, Kuper and Franklin should be the starters. There are only two other players that may dislodge the starters and cause a reshuffling of the line. They are Phillip Blake and Ryan Harris. Either one has the talent and potential to possibility leap frog their counterpart but at the moment it is a long shot.

We also will not carry two long snappers.

Another year, another Defense Coach. I do not know what Coach Del Rio plans to run but I believe it will be based on a 4-3 alignment and a one gap system. What I think he does plan to do is use his players to create matchup problems based on downs with his players. It will be interesting to see how different the defense looks and feels compared to the aggressive style of D-Allen.

Defensive Tackle
The guys I have playing inside are Justin Bannan, Sealver Siliga, Kevin Vickerson, Ty Warren, Mitch Unrein, Derek Wolfe and maybe a little Malik Johnson. From all the reports I have seen Bannan and Warren are the starters. But Siliga has been setting the world on fire, he would need to keep that performance going through training camp if he wants to stay in the rotation. Wolfe may not be the starter but he will see plenty of time on the field this year. One player I am interested to see is the return of Big Vick (or Biggerer Vick if the reports of his muscle growth are correct). If he can dominate and perform through TC and preseason he should hold onto his stop and push Siliga down the depth chart. I included Johnson here as I expect to see him inside a little as well. That leaves Unrein for me as the odd man out. My prediction Bannan, Warren, Wolfe, Vickerson and Siliga stay and in that order, Unrein is cut.

Defensive End
There are a number of players verifying for position at DE. Dumervil and Ayers should be the starters but Dumervil may be facing a suspension and Ayers may be facing some stiff competition from Wolfe depending on how he is to be used. But Ayers should make the roster easily. The guys on the bubble are Jeremy Beal, Jason Hunter and Ben Garland. Hunter should make the team leaving Beal and Garland fighting for a spot. Both of which may be over taken by guys like Blatnick and Obiozor. Malik Jackson has a spot no matter what I believe because he adds much needed 'versatility' to the line.

Outside Linebacker
With DJ suspension and pending DUI trial Woodyard will get the first chance to play that WLB spot. His main competition for the starting spot is coming from Danny Trevathan. The two will battle for the spot in Williams absence. The Strong Side Linebacker (SLB) is locked down by Von Miller. Mike Mohamed is his likely back up but the Broncos may try Nate Irving on that side. There is also the hope that one of the extra rookie linebackers steps up. This may mean that Mohamed could be facing the axe.

Inside Linebacker
It looks like the Inside Linebacker spot has all but been handed to Joe Mays. But I am holding out hope that Nate Irving can show some improvement and nab this position. I also have Trevathan as a dark horse for MLB.

I don't think we have ever had this much talent at Cornerback. The list includes Champ Bailey, Omar Bolden, Drayton Florence, Chris Harris, Coryell Judie, Tracey Porter and Syd'Quan Thompson plus a few others. This position I think will be based on how many corners we can actually keep on the roster. The plan is to have Bailey and Porter playing on the outside. Florence, Bolden and Harris playing Nickel and Dime as well as spelling the others on the outside. Harris will need to continue to display his amazing form from last year to keep his spot. That is 5 corners already. I believe the Broncos will carry at most 6 with 4 safeties. The other two players I listed for me are favorites. Squid I really think is one of the better Nickel or Dime players and a ballhawk in small spaces. Judie is all about potential and I have a big belief in him. For me Squid is the pick if he plays well but if Judie can take those kick return duties as his own Squid will be cut. This is how I see it going down but there another 4 or 5 corners trying to make this team.

I think there will be only 4 positions available for Safeties. Those spots belong to Mike Adams, David Bruton, Quinton Carter and Rahim Moore. Rafael Bush I doubt makes the team. There is some question about whether Duke Ihenacho makes the team as there is a special role that he could fill but would the Broncos trade his spot for that of a Corner? I do not know.

As for how the starters line up I would love it to be Moore and Carter but I doubt Moore can beat out Adams. Therefore starters being Adams and Carter with Moore rotating in mostly on passing downs I would think.

Kicker - Matt Prater

Punter - Britton Colquitt.

That is it from me, we will have more as Training Camp unfolds ~ Aussie.

July 2, 2012

Broncos sign K Matt Prater

It has officially been done. The Denver Broncos signed Matt Prater today with a four-year deal worth $13 million. The contract included a $3 million signing bonus. John Elway released this statement on the announcement.

"Happy to announce we have signed kicker Matt Prater to a new four-year deal. This was the final piece in setting our roster for camp, and we are thrilled Matt is going to be a Bronco for a long time. Matt has developed into one of the NFL’s elite kickers and is a big part of our team."

Elway went on to say that "This was the final piece in setting our roster for camp, and we are thrilled Matt is going to be a Bronco for a long time," via Twitter.

Prater, who took over as Denver's primary kicker in 2008 following the departure of Jason Elam, had an eventful 2011 season.

Four of the eight Broncos victories in 2011 came on Prater field goals, and two of his overtime kicks(52 yds. at Miami and 51 yds. vs. Chicago) tie for the third and fifth-longest overtime field goals in NFL history. Prater also kicked a 59-yard field goal against the Bears to send the game to OT. He also was named the AFC's Special Teams Player of the Month for his December performances.

Prater converted 19-of-25 field goals and all 30 extra point attempts last season. He led the team with 87 total points and finished first in the NFL with his 70.1 touchback percentage on kickoffs.

"It feels amazing, it's something I've worked for since I was a little kid," Prater said Monday. "I'm super excited and very thankful to Mr. Bowlen, Mr. Elway, and the entire organization."

"As far as the process, it's kind of tough, especially when the practices started because I wanted to be there. But in the end I knew it was gonna get done.

"The Broncos made it pretty easy, my agent (Frank Bauer) did a great job. I'm excited to be back."

Denver had used its franchise tag on Prater earlier in the offseason, but the seventh-year kicker had not signed the one-year, $2.654M deal, instead skipping the team's recent OTAs with negotiations ongoing. The two sides had faced a July 16 deadline to agree to a long-term deal.

Prater has been sensational as a Bronco. He seems to be getting better each year. He has converted more than 80 percent of his field goal attempts (90-of-112 / 80.4%) in five seasons. The key to Prater’s game is his confidence. He has made 28-of-29 fields goals attempted in the fourth quarter or overtime.

During his time with the Broncos, the soon-to-be 28-year-old has been remarkably effective from between 30-39 yards (23 of 24) and beyond 50 yards (10 of 13), but has oddly struggled on short kicks (15 of 17 from 20-29 yards) and from 40-49 yards (12 of 23). Last season, Prater was a woeful 3-for-7 from that longish range.

Prater has a monster leg. Prater has the highest field goal percentage from 50-plus yards in NFL history. He has made 12-of-16 career attempts in that range.

Similarly, Prater was more successful on FG attempts at home (10 of 12) than he was on the road (9 of 13).

Entering his sixth NFL season, Prater now ranks second in Broncos' history with the 80.4 percent field goal conversion rate, just behind Jason Elam (80.6 percent).

The Broncos signed Prater off the Dolphins practice squad in 2007.

The deal ensures Prater will be with the team when training camp opens with physicals and meetings July 25. The first two-a-day session will be July 26.

"Those guys are the best in the business," Prater said. "I love working with those guys and I actually missed just being here and hanging out with those guys. I’m excited to get back and working with them."

With a long-term contract inked, Prater is ready to focus on the upcoming season with no distractions about the future.

"I can’t even put into words how I feel right now – how excited and thankful I am,” Prater said. “We have a great group of guys from top to bottom from the head coach down so it’s going to be a lot of fun."

Only two Broncos remain unsigned: second-round choice Brock Osweiler and third-rounder Ronnie Hillman.

Prater is a great resigning ~ Aussie.