Posted Sun Jul 29th by Monty
“This is a little different,” Ring of Famer Karl Mecklenburg, a special guest of the Denver Broncos, said after practice today. “The idea that they got a day off coming up, and these one-a-days instead of two-a-days. It was nothing like that when I was playing.”
Indeed, Sunday was the fourth day of the Broncos’ 2012 training camp, and it was only the team’s fourth full practice (not counting the two media-only walkthrough sessions — which you shouldn’t). In years past the Broncos may have very well been sweating through their seventh or eighth practice on Day Four, but in 2012, with the NFL’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement, they’re in Session Four, and it was a good atmosphere to boot.
Day Four’s afternoon session was blanketed with clouds and tree cover for the 4,003 fans on the western hills of Dove Valley, and the team treated them with its first red zone work of camp. It also treated them with the appearance of Brian Dawkins and Mr. Mecklenburg, which was appropriate given the theme of the practice: the defense took control.
Right tackle Orlando Franklin sat out with what the team has determined was a slight concussion suffered Saturday, with Chris Clark predominantly filling in. Safety Quinton Carter continued to sit with a hamstring. Jamie Blatnick continues to be limited with an ankle, and Justin Bannan still has a strained calf, which sent him to the locker room at one point today.
MANNING, OFFENSE COME DOWN TO EARTH
Previous camp reports have been glowing, or if they haven’t been, it’s because I’m almost to the point of being numbed by how exquisite Peyton Manning‘s throws are. I’ve never seen a quarterback so consistently throw footballs exactly where they need to be, and I’ve never seen a quarterback so confident and in control of his offense as Manning has been.
Today, that was less the case; Manning and company fell down to earth a little bit. The stud signal caller had a few overthrown passes; he and his receiver were not always on the same page, and players like Demaryius Thomas and Virgil Green had a few drops.
Wide receiver Eric Decker, who did haul in a very nice end zone corner grab after cutting past Omar Bolden, credited the defense.
“Defense did [well],” Decker said. “We had a couple good plays offensively. I think maybe overall, defense probably got more in there but that’s the beauty of it. You come out every day, you battle and one side’s going to win and compete and make each other better.”
It was not a “bad practice” for the offense by any means (Manning was never intercepted, for instance), but when you have three excellent practices in a row, an average outing is noticeable, and Manning and company were merely average today.
The Broncos’ first red zone work of training camp saw Thomas and Decker, among others, square off against the likes of Champ Bailey, Tracy Porter and Rahim Moore in both one-on-one and seven-on-seven work. Manning directed the most passes, with the second-string quarterbacks (more on that later) most often throwing to receivers and defensive backs deeper down the depth chart.
Early in one-on-one’s, Bailey disrupted a nice Thomas curl route on the right sideline right in front of the fans, and the crowd went wild (among defensive players, only Bailey gets a fan ovation like that). Decker ran a quick out to get past Moore to give the offense the edge back. Soon thereafter, Jacob Tamme hauled in a beautiful one-handed catch in the corner of the end zone over Danny Trevathan that drew a large cheer. Later, Brandon Stokley continued to show he may have the best hands in camp, besting Chris Harris in tight coverage to hold onto a bullet from Manning. Andre Caldwell also had a beautiful over the shoulder grab in the end zone after getting a step on Omar Bolden (coaches shouted, “Nice Bubba!”).
The defense would get revenge though. Tracy Porter jumped a few Manning throws with successful deflections. Syd’Quan Thompson prevented D’Andre Goodwin from hauling in an end zone toss, and the second string defensive players consistently got to their opposing quarterback in team work.
NO CLEAR NO. TWO QB
The group of men that are a Manning injury away from being the Broncos’ starting quarterback have enjoyed a heavy rotation as the Broncos give each a chance to run the #2 offense. At first, it was Caleb Hanie seeing the most #2 work; yesterday, rookie Brock Osweiler saw more #2 snaps. Today, as you may have guessed Adam Weber got more in the mix as the team’s second-string QB, but like every other practice, that wasn’t consistent drill-to-drill. The Broncos have enjoyed a snap count that has almost always been six passes Manning, two to four everybody else. Only the order has really changed.
Said Coach John Fox: ”I think we pretty much have a One and have a 2A, B and C. They’ll sort that out. We’ll see how they play. We put a little bit more stock in game situations so time will tell.”
YOU MAY WANT TO LEARN TO PRONOUNCE OBIOZOR
As in, Cyril Obiozor (SEER-uhl oh-bee-AH-zor), the team’s third-year defensive end who has seen time with the Green Bay Packers, San Diego Chargers, and Arizona Cardinals, and who spent the 2011 season out of football. The Broncos signed Obiozor to a future contract in January 2012, but I don’t think they expected him to be making this kind of impact this early in camp. Obiozor had two clear sacks today, the first among many to swarm Caleb Hanie from left end at one point, then speeding past a left tackle at right end for a quick sack half an hour later. The 6-4, 249-pounder stands tall and stands out in the defensive crowd, as I’ve noticed his #54 jersey on the right end of a big defensive play a few times this camp. After today, I’m taking even closer notice.
RONNIE RUNS DOWNHILL
(Yes, his name is Hillman. Yes, I’m going to use that pun a lot this season. Get used to it.)
(Assuming he runs downhill a lot this season, of course. Hopefully.)
Rookie running back Ronnie Hillman looked best among Broncos runners today, with the defensive line smothering the offensive line at every turn. But Hillman didn’t quit. In one play on the far end of the field, Hillman clearly snaked through a pair of Broncos tackles to daylight for a touchdown. The Broncos aren’t fully tackling, and everyone is going only three-quarters speed, but I still think Hillman busted enough of a move to leave his opponents in the dust on that play.
In related running back news, Lance Ball took most of the first string work in the latter part of practice; I heard murmurs that Willis McGahee may have been slow to get up at one point, and I didn’t see him in first team work late in practice (which could somewhat explain why Hillman looked best today). I’ll keep an eye on him.
GET WELL SOON, ORLANDO FRANKLIN
Concussions are scary business in today’s NFL, so no rush… but hurry back, Orlando Franklin. The Broncos were completely stuffed on every running play off right tackle, and if it weren’t for Manning’s ability to get rid of the football quickly, the first team offense would have yielded a sack or two as well (something I’m not sure has happened at all yet in camp). Third-year tackle Chris Clark saw most of the snaps at right tackle, and I saw him get pushed around by Wesley Woodyard and others a few times. I saw Ryan Harris fill in at RT with the first team at least once, but in other right tackle work, Harris was beat by Jason Hunter.
OFFENSE GETS THE LAST WORD
Perhaps aware that his offense wasn’t performing particularly well today, Manning’s last set of four snaps in full team work saw him go 3-for-3, with one pitch to Lance Ball. They were all short passes (two to Thomas, one to Stokley), but at least they went for completions. Wide receiver Tyler Grisham ended the practice with a nice sideline grab in backup team work.
- I loved the effort D’Andre Goodwin showed today. On one of the red zone passes in one-on-one work, he simply would not give up on a pass that was disrupted by Drayton Florence. His second dive, from the ground, after the ball bobbled in the air nearly netted him the touchdown, but it was just out of reach.
- Wide receiver Gerrell Robinson runs nice routes.
- Derek Wolfe moved inside a bit today, playing at right defensive tackle in what looked to me like a three technique, with the end far off the left tackle’s outside shoulder. He again made some nice plays, collapsing the pocket and batting down a pass at one point. I also saw him at left defensive end. He truly is playing “all over the d-line.”
- The Broncos have been mixing in their nickelbacks so far in camp, but today saw Chris Harris return to that role in which he excelled as a rookie in 2011.
Check Facebook.com/BroncoTalk for a photo gallery from today and every day of Broncos training camp.
The next training camp practice will be tomorrow, Monday, July 30th, 2012 at 8:50 a.m., and is open to the public.