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Published on 07/29/2008 at Tue Jul 29 08:57.
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As we continue our daily coverage of Training Camp 2008, I wanted to mention a few things that I’m personally looking for this year as we prepare for the season.

1. Niko – Is he for real?
I have no doubts about D.J. Williams at WILL or Boss Bailey at SAM. My concern is for the middle. Niko is said to have loads of talent and the drive to lead, but I’m keeping my eyes open and ears tuned for little things that might give us an early indication about what we truly have in the middle. I also think that watching Nate Webster is important. If Webster stands out and Niko has a slow start, I think Shanahan will give Nate a shot at the top spot.

2. Full-on Fight at Fullback?
With Converted RB Cecil Sapp and incoming FB Peyton Hillis we might have a pretty good position fight to watch this camp. Unfortunately, we can’t count so much on the mainstream media on this one, as this position is just not a glamorous as running back, wideout or QB. So, I’m really watching the blog coverage and reports from on-hand fans to see if we can get a feel for how this battle is unfolding.

3. Awesome Depth at Wideout, but who wins the #2 spot?
We have more depth (read: talent) at WR this year than most seasons I can remember. We currently have Brandon Marshall, Brandon Stokley, Darrell Jackson, Glenn Martinez, Eddie Royal, Taylor Jacobs, Keary Colbert, Marquay McDaniel, Samie Parker, Lorne Sam, Clifford Russell and Edell Shepherd. That’s 12 guys fighting for 7-8 spots. We all know Marshall is our number one guy. I would put Darrell Jackson, Martinez and Royal on the second tier level with the best chance to win that second spot. I see Stokley remaining in the slot (with Royal giving him a run for his money if Eddie doesn’t win the #2 spot). That leaves us with 7 other guys scrapping for the last 2-3 roster places.
However, it’s that fight for the #2 spot that has my attention. I like ALL three of these guys and with the issue of Brandon Marshall’s possible suspension looming it will make this position battle that much more intense.

4. The O-line… Aging men, Young rookies and backups?
I love Ryan Clady… but he isn’t going to single-handedly going to fix all the issue we have this year along the O-line. We’re going to have good fights all along the line. It should be fun! :)
On example of this is our backup Center… I know we all have mad respect for Tom Nalen, but he’s not a young pup any more. And Hamilton is coming off a serious concussion injury last year, so he’s one good lick away from leaving the game entirely. Since Ben Hamilton has traditionally been Nalen’s backup, if he was to go down with another head bump in camp or the preseason what would that leave us behind Nalen at Center? Another old guy and a rookie. So I am very interested in what veteran Casey Wiegmann and rookie Kory Lichtensteiger can bring this camp. Like many of the other O-line position battles, the backup Center job is not going to garner much mainstream media attention, so we’ll all need to keep a close eye on those first hand accounts from camp.

5. Safeties… Is this Lynch’s Swan Song?
Watch closely folks, this might be John Lynch‘s last training camp. We saw Nick Ferguson supplanted by Hamza Abdullah last year. So, what will our young rookies bring to this year’s camp? Can any of them prove to the coaches that it would be better to split time between Run Defense and Pass Defense with Lynch in on running plays and a faster youth in on obvious passing plays? It’s possible… and early in camp we might get a feel for this (things like Roderick Roger‘s INT for example)
Mark my words, if Lynch thinks his playing time will be reduced this season he’s going to walk way.

I’m also looking forward to see how Jay Cutler is doing (seems very good to me so far), who will impress the coaches at Running Back (go Andre Hall!) and what rotation in the middle of the D-line will finally fix our run defense.

  • adam

    Do you mean walk away after the season, or retire at the end of camp?

  • Jonathan Douglas

    I think that totally depends on what he believes his role is going to be when we get to the end of camp. If he feels he’s going to spend most of the time on the sidelines, only getting his number called on obvious running plays, I would put money on him walking away at the end of camp.

    However, if he goes into the preseason and/or the regular season Lynch is a professional and a GREAT teammate/player. He would NEVER leave the team during the season even if his playing time was drastically reduced at that point. In that case, it would be directly after the season ends.

    That’s my read… nothing official.

    I might add that my hope is that Lynch stays on and can contribute to our playoff run this year (even if that turns out to be in a part-time role).

  • myerda00

    Great blog. You know Jonathan, to me, if you have very good position battles then the backup is good also. I love the depth of competition this year. WR is strong. Martinez maybe #4 WR.
    DT rotation is where my fingers are crossed. Thomas, Robertson and Mckinley are set (IMO). Battle is Peterson and Mallard. AND my thoughts pull for Steven Harris to jump up. WOW, love it.

  • myerda00

    If Josh Barrett is as advertised then John may retire after training camp. John can not play ST . So far I see McCree and Hamsa as the starters. And Rodgers is developing very nicely.
    Sorry fans, John is a HOF, but………..

  • ryanbroncos

    I have been at camp 2 of the mornings and it is pretty clear to me that Marlon McCree is outplaying Lynch and he is making plays in the pass game. Another observation i have is that Ryan Clady is a flat out beast and can really dominate anyone that is thrown at him he looks great and I have absolutely no problem with him playing from day one.

  • Jonathan Douglas

    myerda00, I agree that we’re going to have deeper talent at WR this year than I can remember. I think we’ll end up with backups this year that could start on other teams — which is awesome!

    Thanks for the complement on the blog! I have to admit, this site is truly awesome primarily because the founder and commander and chief, Kyle Montgomery, works tirelessly on the site. So, my kudos go out to Kyle ‘The Man’ Montgomery – thanks for all you do, man! :)

  • Kyle

    Kind words, JD, but nothing brings a goofy smile to my face more than seeing a post with someone else’s name on it on this site.

    You and I think quite alike regarding Lynch. It seems that needs its own post really to give the debate and train of thought justice.

  • Garret Barnes

    I know we are better off having Lynch be situational but he is my favorite player on any team of all time. He is a future HOF and I just want him to go out with style.

  • Richard

    The battle between Niko and Webster will be decided by the preseason games, not by one or two good days of practice by either of them. Remember, Webster has been here for a few years and Niko is learning a new system in a new town. So it makes me laugh when I read posts that Niko can’t cut it because he practiced with the 2’s. We’ll know after the 3rd preseason game.

    Hillis makes the team. Sapp’s future depends more on the performance of Aldredge. If the speedster makes it to the 53, Sapp is probably not going to be here. It’s a numbers thing.

    At WR Jackson has the early lead for #2, but he also spent 6 yrs in a West Coast offense in Seattle(ironic that it didn’t work out for him in SF). Colbert is a much better blocker and will be a big help in the run game. But, he didn’t play in a WC system under John Fox, and so he has a learning curve. Royal will NOT be the #2 on opening day, because there’s too much veteran talent on the roster. Will he contribute? ABSOLUTELY! Exactly where I don’t know, and I suspect the coaches aren’t completely sure yet either. But I’m sure they are scheming and considering alternatives as we speak( or blog as the case may be).

    Oline will work itself out as it always does. Barring catastrophic injuries, as we had last year, we have a nice mix of talent and youth on the team and they’ll “get er done”.

    Even with reduced playing time ( if that happens) I don’t see Lynch walking away. He’ll play. He’s just so valuable, and he’s too focused and stubborn to do that. I don’t see it happening.