2014 Denver Broncos Training Camp Practice Report: Day One
By Cecil Lammey
The Denver Broncos kicked things off at Dove Valley on Thursday. Training camp is back, but the facility was not crowded with fans lining the side of the practice field. Construction at the facility has caused the practices to be closed to the public, although there are three practices open at Sports Authority Field at Mile High later in camp.
This was not a padded practice, but there were still a few standout players and plays you need to know about. Here’s my Day 1 Denver Broncos Practice Report.
Peyton Manning looked good on the field (of course). His passes were in stride and at the proper distance most every time. Manning made a point of throwing deep a couple of times, showing off what looks like improved arm strength.
Brock Osweiler had an up-and-down day. After struggling with consistency in minicamp and OTAs, the same problems continued on Day 1. Osweiler threw behind tight end Jacob Tamme and the pass was picked off by undrafted rookie cornerback Louis Young. The rookie ended up with a pick-6 as he easily glided into the end zone.
Later in practice, Osweiler made arguably the play of the day. He did a good job of holding the defense with his eyes and fired the ball down the middle of the field to a sprinting Cody Latimer. Osweiler put proper touch on the throw, and Latimer caught it in stride.
I like the way Osweiler quickly set up to throw, and his footwork looked improved over what he showed in minicamp. The tools are there with him, he just needs to work on being more accurate on a consistent basis.
Zac Dysert didn’t make it into my notebook on day one, but Bryn Renner did. He turns quickly when setting up to throw after a play fake. Renner gets the ball out of his hand cleanly and quickly.
Montee Ball is bulked up, and it shows on the practice field. After practice, I was able to interview Ball and he told me that he’s checking in around 220 pounds right now. Ball is now larger than C.J. Anderson as C.J. shed about 20 pounds between minicamp and training camp. Anderson currently checks in at 213.
Ball was most impressive as a receiver today. It’s clear that he spent the offseason working on his concentration as a pass-catcher. Ball talked to me about why improving as a receiver was so important
to him. “You’ve got to be able to catch the football in order to expand the offense and put pressure on the defense.”
The best play Ball made as a receiver was a low pass that came in hot from Manning. Ball cleanly reached down and plucked the ball before it hit the ground.
Ronnie Hillman continues to be a standout player in practice. His speed makes him a player to watch in practice, but he’s yet been unable to translate that to games. We’ll see if he can hang onto the rock and compete as a potential RB2 behind Ball.
Brennan Clay has speed similar to that of Hillman. His strong hands make him a fine receiving option out of the backfield. The undrafted rookie out of Oklahoma continues to stand out as a change-of-pace back. He might be a sleeper to make the final roster.
Anderson has slimmed down, but he still has a large lower body. This allows him to have arguably the fastest 10-yard split of any back on the roster. Anderson looked lighter and quicker on the practice field today.
Kapri Bibbs looked swift when running around the edge. He’s made an impression as a receiver out of the backfield this offseason as well. Bibbs will likely stand out when the pads come on.
Demaryius Thomas was not on the field today. He’s dealing with the death of his grandmother, the woman who raised him, and Thomas is back in Georgia to attend her funeral.
In place of Thomas at practice today was veteran receiver Andre “Bubba” Caldwell. He makes plays vertically and continued to shine in that role today. Caldwell also hauled in a couple of short catches over the middle.
Wes Welker looked like his old self on day one. He ran great out routes and worked the sideline with ease. Welker had some good battles with second-year pro Kavyon Webster today.
Emmanuel Sanders looked fantastic out there in his first training camp practice with the Broncos. His deep speed was on display, and Manning fired more than a couple of shots his way on such routes. Sanders also looked good running the patented jerk routes to get open underneath or near the sidelines. It’s clear that the Broncos (and offensive coordinator Adam Gase) are going to be very creative with the way they use Sanders.
Rookie Cody Latimer looks like a star in the making. He was dominant at times today, and hooked up with Osweiler for what was the play of the day. Latimer beat both Duke Ihenacho and Webster to haul in a deep pass over the middle for a touchdown. He set up his route perfectly and found himself running in the wide open field after the catch.
Latimer is so good, it will be difficult to keep him off the field. He can also sky for passes in the end zone as well. Latimer was positive about his health status after practice. “I didn’t have any pain today. We did 1-on-1’s and special teams, and I did everything. So I haven’t had any pain, I’m going to go get treatment after this and keep it that way.”
Jordan Norwood is going to have a tough time making the final roster, but the veteran is certainly going to make it a difficult decision for the team. He moves quickly, runs crisp routes and has good concentration.
Undrafted rookie Isaiah Burse did a good job of looking in passes today. He worked the sidelines to show off his trademark quickness against coverage.
Greg Wilson dropped a pass that was thrown behind him by Osweiler.
The star of the day was Julius Thomas. He was making plays all over the field. Entering the final year of his contract, Thomas showed off why the Broncos are trying to lock him up with a long-term deal.
Thomas can do it all. He worked well on out routes, but he’s also fearless when crossing over the middle. The big man can attack the deep middle seam of the defense as well.
Of course, the former basketball star from Portland State can play above the rim and win contested passes. He was moving swiftly after the catch, and Thomas looked athletic in the open field.
I interviewed Broncos head coach John Fox today and asked him if we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg with Thomas. “There’s no question he can get better. He had a great season a year ago, and I think he can build on that.”
Gerell Robinson has a real shot to make the final roster since the Broncos released veteran tight end Joel Dreessen earlier this week. Robinson looked good in blocking drills, showing good effort and technique. He also made a nice spinning catch on a pass slightly behind him from Osweiler.
I spend most of my time watching skill position players, but there were some players on defense of note.
Von Miller looked good moving laterally on the practice field. He’s not a full participant in practice, but it looks like he’s not thinking about the knee injury that cut his season short last year.
Danny Trevathan was flying all over the field in practice. He showed off his speed in coverage and his burst as a pass-rusher.
Jerome Murphy had a strong opening-day performance. The fifth-year corner showed savvy on the field in terms of position and ability to stay with receivers one-on-one.
Stay tuned to ESPNDenver.com
for my daily training camp reports and video shows!
Fan presence missed by Peyton Manning as Denver Broncos open camp
By Johnny Hart
Denver Broncos/NFL Insider
Two years ago the Denver Broncos opened up training camp with a record-shattering 4,371 fans in attendance.
That practice, the first of several to break attendance records that preseason, featured the unveiling of a certain future Hall of Fame quarterback.
Thursday, the club opened up training camp to a grassy hill not filled with fans but instead crawling with construction workers.
An ongoing makeover and expansion at the club’s Dove Valley headquarters, which includes the construction of a new indoor facility, has driven fans from their familiar training camp home –– the berm to the west of the Broncos practice fields.
The lack of fan attendance did not go overlooked by Peyton Manning, who praised the fan-player training camp dynamic in his first two years in Denver.
“It was noticeably different today, and I think the challenge will be on the players to kind of find that extra motivation internally because it’s not going to come from somebody cheering you on over there in the grass like in years past,” Manning said.
Manning called the situation “unavoidable,” as the club’s upgrades are “much needed” and “had to be done.”
Nevertheless, the Broncos gunslinger said he was disappointed fans couldn’t attend camp.
“I like having the fans out here during practice,” Manning said. “Especially when you get into that third or fourth padded practice, and it’s kind of the dog days of training camp –– those fans lift you up.”
The club will host three practices at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, which will be open and free to the public, including parking.
Those dates are:
- Sunday –– 11:30 to 2 p.m.
- July 30 –– 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- August 2 (Summer Scrimmage) –– 11 a.m.