By Cecil Lammey
The Cecil Lammey Show
The Denver Broncos are only a few days into training camp this year. Practices have been closed to the public as the team headquarters at Dove Valley are undergoing a major renovation. Today, the Broncos held practice at Sports Authority Field at Mile High—and it was open to the public.
It was great to see the fans back, and there were 21,933 fans in attendance to watch their Broncos. The players certainly seemed to perform better in front of the crowd. The energy level increased, and that led to improved play.
Here are my practice notes for Day 4 of Broncos Training Camp.
Peyton Manning was throwing mostly crisp passes during practice. The velocity he’s showing on his spiral seems faster than it was last year. Earlier this offseason, players like Demaryius Thomas have commented about Manning’s arm seeming stronger. Manning is showing the ability to go vertical more than he did in 2013.
Brock Osweiler continued his up-and-down performance in training camp. He looks good when checking down or throwing long bombs. Osweiler needs to improve his accuracy when throwing to the middle of the field. Errant passes in the middle can easily lead to tipped passes or interceptions. His footwork is better than it was in minicamp (where it seemed to regress), and he has incredible zip on the football.
Zac Dysert had multiple bad throws in practice. His accuracy is scattershot at best, and he often overthrows his receiver when forced to throw with touch to the outside. Dysert has a big arm, and he ended practice with a long bomb to rookie speedster Isaiah Burse. Other than that one play, Dysert really struggled to consistently connect on Sunday.
Bryn Renner continues to be patient in waiting for his opportunity. He’s not getting any work in team drills, but he’s getting a few reps during individual drills. With Dysert struggling each day, one has to wonder when the team is going to turn to Renner.
Now that the pads are on, it’s easier to determine what Montee Ball looks like as a runner in camp. His added weight to his upper body gives him a larger striking area when running into opponents. Ball looks like he’s relishing the contact, and he’s blasted through the line more than once. He caught a low pass that was barely above the blades of grass, quickly turned and picked up some extra yards after the catch. His concentration as a receiver has greatly improved this year.
C.J. Anderson was the only Broncos back to score when the team was doing red-zone drills. He has power in his lower body, and that helps him when he has to push the pile. Anderson is lighter, weighing in at 213 pounds now and that has helped him look quicker on the field.
Ronnie Hillman had a nice run to the outside in practice. His speed is still evident on runs that go outside the tackles. He received a few reps between the tackles and was quickly swallowed up on each carry. Hillman dropped a screen pass in team drills that drew the ire of the crowd in attendance.
Sources close to the team tell me they believe that Brennan Clay is the frontrunner to make the final roster as the fourth-string back. It’s easy to see why the Broncos are impressed. Clay has dangerous speed, and he’s a threat to score any time he touches the ball.
Kapri Bibbs is showing good balance as a runner. He’s also looked better than expected as a receiver out of the backfield.
Juwan Thompson is a good all-around player, and he’s arguably the best pass-blocker the team has at the running back position. That being said, he’s looking too sluggish out on the practice field.
Emmanuel Sanders was wowing the crowd at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Sunday. He’s almost untouchable off the line of scrimmage. He has multiple moves to get release from the line, and Sanders has an incredible burst at the stem of his route and after the catch. Favorite play from him was a slant over the middle that he turned up field and took to the house.
Andre “Bubba” Caldwell continues to fill in nicely for Demaryius Thomas. His favorite routes are deep routes, and he hauled in a deep catch early in practice.
Wes Welker was able to get into the endzone for a touchdown, quickly bursting outside to haul in the score untouched.
Cody Latimer had some rookie moments and some highlight plays on Sunday. He worked the sidelines well and showed off his body control. Latimer looked like he wanted to do too much in the red zone. He dropped a pass late in practice with wide open field in front of him.
Undrafted wide receiver Greg Hardin made two splashy plays in front of the crowd. He opened up practice by hauling in a deep pass from Brock Osweiler in the middle of the field. Hardin stretched out to make the catch with a defender draped all over him. He was able to haul in a catch falling on his back later in practice. Both plays drew plenty of cheers from the fans.
Bennie Fowler made a nice spin catch near the end of practice. He’s big and fast, but don’t underestimate is body control or natural athleticism.
Jordan Norwood continues to make plays each and every day. He’s a longshot to make the roster, but it will be difficult to let him go based on his camp performance. Norwood is a savvy route runner, and on one play today he ran a seam route where Osweiler was able to hit him in stride.
Julius Thomas continues to be dominant in practice. He’s standing out on routes over the middle, to the sidelines or deep down the seam. He burned Kayvon Webster late in practice on a deep route that fell beautifully into his hands. During red-zone work, Thomas was able to haul in a pass with T.J. Ward covering him. Thomas outraced Ward to the pylon for the score. Thomas also caught a pass cleanly over his shoulder in the end zone with Danny Trevathan swiping at the ball. As dominant as Thomas looked at times last year, it seems like he’s taken his game to another level.
Virgil Green hauled in a couple of nice catches during Sunday’s practice. He’s still the best blocking tight end on the team, and he’s good enough as a receiver to work underneath routes with ease.
Jacob Tamme was frequently targeted by Manning. The chemistry with Manning, ability in the red zone, and the fact that he’s a plus-player on special teams makes Tamme a no-brainer for the 53-man roster.
Gerell Robinson had a better day today. He’s bailing out Osweiler on multiple plays. He’s athletic after the catch, and has the body control to work the sidelines or the back of the end zone. I’d like to see Robinson use his frame better to “box out” defenders. Too many passes are getting knocked away by defenders covering him. Robinson needs to get more “basketball” to his game.
T.J. Ward should immediately become a fan favorite. He’s making big hits and big plays for this defense consistently. He can play close to the line of scrimmage as a run-defender, but Ward can also excel in coverage.
Danny Trevathan was flying all over the field. He knocked away a pass by Brock Osweiler that was intended for Gerell Robinson. Osweiler thought he could fit the pass into a tight space and fired the ball with incredible zip. Trevathan closed the gap quickly and hit the ball with his outstretched arm.
Brandon Marshall made a play in coverage, knocking away a pass intended for Gerell Robinson.
Bradley Roby made a big play against Julius Thomas. The star tight end had been making a ton of plays all day, but saw a potential touchdown pass knocked away by the rookie in the end zone.
L.J. Fort tipped away a touchdown pass in the end zone.
Nate Irving made a play in coverage against Virgil Green in the end zone. He was right there with Green and caused the ball to be dropped.
Sylvester Williams showed good timing, knocking down a Manning pass at the line of scrimmage.
Kayvon Webster was looking for bit hits all day. This caused him to make some plays, but it also got him burned at times. He drew cheers from his defensive teammates when he hit Ball near the end zone to stop a potential score.