Thursday was an eventful practice for the Broncos, exciting both players and the fans.
After team stretches and some warm ups, the team huddled at mid-field. When Head Coach Josh McDaniels was done talking, hoops and hollering erupted from the veterans and the whole team ran over to the west endzone of the south football field. It soon became apparent what had made the veterans so hyper.
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Before practice a few field staff and coaches were spraying a section behind the endzone with water and driving over the wet grass with an ATV, creating a mud puddle. Continuing a tradition started by McDaniels last year, the rookies run and dive into the mud pit (diving in with a football) while being sprayed with a hose. It was a fun time for the Broncos, letting loose and getting away from the stresses of Training Camp, if just for five minutes.
Shortly thereafter, Ring of Fame former Bronco receiver Rod Smith was spotted talking with Broncos' owner Pat Bowlen. Both Bowlen and Smith watched some of practice, Demaryius Thomas got a few tips from Smith after practice had ended.
The Broncos pass rush takes a tremendous blow
The Broncos learned this morning that Pro Bowl outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil could miss up to four months, if not the whole season, after suffering a torn pectoral in yesterday’s practice. The news comes as a tough blow to the Broncos, as the NFL's reigning sack king was a vital part of the Broncos defense. Head Coach Josh McDaniels said one player could never replace Dumervil, but as a whole the defense will have to step up. Two linebackers that are trying to keep their careers from becoming busts, Jarvis Moss and Robert Ayers, will undoubtedly get more playing time this season now that Dumervil will be out. While those two Broncos are saddened for Dumervil, both are excited for the opportunity to step up. Both Ayers and Moss, particularly Moss, have been working hard this offseason and have impressed the coaches. Today Moss created a good pass rush, forcing Orton to throw the ball away more than once. The Broncos have no timetable for Dumervil, right now they are planning on him missing the whole season. The defense will have a hard time replacing him.
Joining Dumervil on the injured list, receiver Kenny McKinley and safety Josh Barrett were placed on injured reserve. Nose Tackle Jamal Williams was a bright spot in injury news, he practiced for the first time today, after being sidelined with an injury. Wide receiver Patrick Honeycutt was waived today, clearing room for the Broncos to sign Britt Davis and Patrick Cater, both receivers
Perrish Cox the front runner for punt/kick returning, praised by Champ Bailey
During a special teams session, Rookie Cornerback Perrish Cox was the main punt returner, followed by Eddie Royal. Since the start of practice, Cox has been praised for his return skills, having good speed and tricky moves combined with his vision, Cox is primed to become a great returner. Playing on special teams may not be Cox's only opportunity to play in 2010, beloved Bronco corner Champ Bailey spoke very highly of Cox as a cornerback, stating; "If me or Goody [fellow starting conerback Andre' Goodman] went down with an injury, he [Cox] could see time on the field - if not before."
Marquez Branson looks better and better, Richard Quinn stays mediocre
As far as blocking, Richard Quinn has had a good camp, as has starting Tight End Daniel Graham. However, Quinn's hands remain non-existent when it comes to catching. Numerous times throughout today's practice Quinn dropped easy passes from all three quarterbacks. Second year Tight End Marquez Branson is going in the opposite direction. Branson made several big catches, including one play where he found himself wide open in the back of the endzone for a score - burning safety Darcel McBath. His hands aren't the only thing going for him either, Josh McDaniels has stated umpteen times that versatility is key for players to have if they are going to see playing time, and versatility is just what Branson possesses. Moving from Tight End, Branson played a few snaps as fullback, giving the Broncos a great receiving threat out of the backfield.
Tim Tebow needs to make faster decisions
During 7-on-7 and offense vs defense drills, rookie quarterback Tim Tebow had his troubles. The former Gator hesitated for too long, (in a game he would have been sacked), and forced some throws when under pressure. Tebow didn't play very well under duress, he threw a few passes behind receivers while scrambling away from pressure, and threw an interception to Tony Carter after being forced to step up in the pocket. Being slow to react is common for rookies, as well as getting ansy in the pocket. Tebow has unbelievable potential, yet so much to learn. Amongst all his shortcomings as a passer, Tebow did manage to excite fans when in the shot gun (where he clearly performs the best). During a 3rd down situation drill, Kyle Orton played for three snaps, then Tebow went in for a play. Tebow lined up in the shot gun, took the snap and ran a designed QB draw. After Orton and Quinn ran a few more plays, Tebow went in again, and ran the same play. Later, when he again took command of the huddle, the play was a hand off. Whether the Broncos will use Tebow during the season like they did in practice remains to be seen.
Offensive line excels in rush blocking
Even without Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter, many of the plays the Broncos ran during offense vs defense where running plays. The offensive line made Bruce Hall and Lance Ball look good, two running backs not many had even heard of before training camp. Hall broke a few runs for big gains, while Ball remained the best of the rest. Newcomer LenDale White didn't receive as many carries as the others, but took advantage of the touches he got. After shaking a few tackles for a big gain, White went to the sideline where McDaniels told him to "Stay on that track, [and] you'll be just fine."
The passing offense
Of the quarterbacks Tebow struggled the most, while Quinn had his own troubles, throwing behind the recievers during 7-on-7 drills. Playing with complete control of the offense, Kyle Orton showed why he is the starter, as he was on target throughout practice. On his first pass during a game-like scrimmage, Orton hit Brandon Lloyd for a big gain. The next play, Orton couldn't find an open receiver and wisely threw the ball away (Champ Bailey intercepted the pass but it was unclear if he was in bounds and it didn't count). After a few running plays, Orton hit Daniel Graham for a few more yards, followed by another pass thrown out of bounds. The drive ended when Orton found Eddie in the endzone for a touchdown. Previously in 7-on-7's Orton threw several more touchdowns including one Brandon Lloyd caught mid air, and a diving touchdown pass to Royal.
Mario Haggan, secondary step up
Inside linebacker Mario Haggan has been a leader while D.J. Williams and Brian Dawkins miss practice. Haggan has been knocking the ball out of receivers hands and stopping running backs in their tracks all practice. The secondary has also been making plays from some unexpected players. As noted above, Tony Carter had a great interception, Alphonso Smith broke up a few passes, Champ Bailey broke up almost every pass thrown his way, and Darcel McBath broke up a few passes as well.
Matt Prater has a powerful right leg
The last drill of today's session was field goal kicking. Matt Prater nailed kicks through smaller than usual practice field goals from as far away as 40+ yards.
We'll have coverage again tomorrow when the Broncos take the field at Dove Valley! View more photos from training camp at our faceook page!