|07-22-2007, 04:34 AM||#1|
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Arcadia, CA
Preview: Broncos training camp & 10 questions going into camp
Preview: Broncos training camp
July 29 through Aug. 11 at Dove Valley
By Mike Klis
Denver Post Staff Writer
Article Last Updated: 07/21/2007 10:57:12 PM MDT
Brandon Marshall (Getty Images file)KEY ISSUE: The battle for No. 2 receiver
Will second-year wideout Brandon Marshall emerge as the Broncos' No. 2 receiver?
With one exception, all of the Broncos' starting jobs are solid. The exception is at the receiver spot opposite veteran Javon Walker, who caught 69 passes for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns last season. Walker, in his second season with the Broncos, should improve on those numbers with deep ball-throwing Jay Cutler as his full-time quarterback.
For the most part, the question mark at No. 2 receiver stems from health issues. Two receivers with proven ability — Rod Smith and Brandon Stokley — are coming off major surgeries. Smith, 37, had hip surgery that kept him sidelined during the team's offseason workout program. Stokley, 31, had an Achilles tendon injury last year and played in only four games with Indianapolis. But he had 68 catches for 1,077 yards and 10 touchdowns with the Colts in 2004.
Entering training camp, Brandon Marshall has the best chance to erase concern about the Broncos' No. 2 receiver position. The former fourth-round draft pick from Central Florida is big (6-feet-4, 222 pounds) and fast, and has exceptional hands. He averaged 15.5 yards on 20 catches last year as a rookie, including a 71-yard scoring play against Seattle on Dec. 3. That provided a glimpse of his enormous potential.
"Now I have a year under my belt and we have that cannon standing back there at quarterback throwing that thing, so I'm excited to be out there starting alongside Javon Walker," Marshall said.
But Marshall comes into training camp after nagging offseason injuries.
"Nothing's ever given to you, especially at this level," Marshall said. "I definitely have to work."
If all goes well for the Broncos, Marshall and Walker will be the starting wideouts, Smith or Stokley will slide into the No. 3 spot and Domenik Hixon, a former fourth-round pick from Akron who missed his rookie season last year because
Rod Smith (Getty Images file)of leg injuries, will emerge as the No. 4 receiver.
A look at the No. 2 candidates
* Marshall: The former Central Florida star was hurt in the Broncos' first preseason game last year as a rookie but gradually worked his way to the No. 3 receiver slot behind Javon Walker and Rod Smith. Marshall experienced a tumultuous offseason. He was with teammates Darrent Williams and Damien Nash in the minutes prior to both players' deaths. Marshall also was bothered by pulled leg muscles during mini-camp sessions.
* Smith: In one sense, a receiver just 13 catches shy of eighth place on the NFL's all-time list and the Broncos' career leader in nearly every reception category shouldn't have to prove anything to anybody. In another sense, a 37-year-old skill position player coming off a down year and hip surgery that sidelined him through the offseason would have to eclipse some NFL mortality standards merely to make the roster.
* Stokley: When he was healthy during his eight-year career, first with the Ravens, then with the Colts, the Broncos couldn't cover him. Chances are the Broncos won't keep both Smith and Stokley, so the first to heal could win a receiver slot. Stokley wasn't supposed to fully recover from Achilles tendon surgery until late August, but he was running at near full speed while participating in the team's final mini-camp workout this month.
UNDER CLOSE WATCH
Here are five Broncos who will be watched closely during
1. D.J. Williams, middle linebacker. Williams, an outside linebacker by trade, shifts to the middle where Al Wilson was a starter the past eight seasons. After an impressive rookie season, Williams' role was reduced the past two years. His position switch was made largely because Denver's new defensive boss, Jim Bates, does not like his best players sitting on the sidelines.
2. Gerard Warren, defensive tackle. "Big Money" was bothered by his two big toes last year and took a paycut to return this season. His play-every-down status then was seriously threatened by the Broncos' offseason acquisitions of Sam Adams, Jimmy Kennedy and Alvin McKinley.
3. Todd Sauerbrun, punter. Taking an ephedrine supplement landed the three-time Pro Bowler on the four-game suspended list and in Mike Shanahan's doghouse last year. The suspension led the Broncos to keep Paul Ernster, but his mixed performance led them to re-sign Sauerbrun. After missing most of last season, the 34-year-old Sauerbrun may not be a lock to reclaim his job.
4. Tony Scheffler, tight end. Jay Cutler's favorite target during the preseason and late in the regular season last year, Scheffler had a tough offseason. First, the Broncos gave veteran tight end Daniel Graham a contract that guarantees the former Colorado star $15 million. Then Scheffler suffered a fractured left foot. The health of the former second-round draft pick from Western Michigan will be a concern as training camp opens.
5. Matt Lepsis, offensive tackle. The rhetoric at Dove Valley can leave the impression Lepsis' recovery from his knee injury is no more difficult than walking off a sprained ankle. No doubt, the Broncos are counting on the marvels of modern medicine to help the 33-year-old Lepsis, who is pivotal to the development and health of second-year quarterback Jay Cutler as Cutler's left-side protection.
Travis Henry, running back - Should become the Broncos' best rusher since Clinton Portis.
Daniel Graham, tight end - Rare tight end who can help both the running game and passing game. Paid like it, too.
Dré Bly, cornerback - Superb cover corner who will go for the pick. Will be asked to improve tackling.
Jarvis Moss, defensive end - First-round draft pick will have one primary responsibility as a rookie: Get the quarterback.
Sam Adams, defensive tackle - Listed at 350 pounds, the 14-year veteran is the poster manchild for the team's new beef movement.
* Others: Alvin McKinley, DT; Jimmy Kennedy, DT; Marcus Thomas, DT; Tim Crowder, DE; Patrick Ramsey, QB; Brandon Stokley, WR; Todd Sauerbrun, P; Montrae Holland, G; Ryan Harris, OT; Paul Smith, FB; Eddie Moore, LB; Warrick Holdman, LB.
Al Wilson, middle linebacker - The absence of Captain Al was palpable during offseason workouts.
Jake Plummer, quarterback - For better or worse, he has his wedding, not Tampa Bay, in his summer plans.
Tatum Bell, running back - Fourth consecutive RB to leave the Broncos after a 1,000-yard season.
Darrent Williams, cornerback - Garrulous, amiable, tenacious and fast, his spirit will be honored throughout the season.
George Foster, offensive tackle - First-round disappointment will be replaced on the right side by undrafted Erik Pears.
* Others: Michael Myers, DT; Cooper Carlisle, G; Damien Nash, RB; Keith Burns, special teams; Patrick Chukwurah, special teams.
Jarvis Moss, defensive end
Height, weight: 6-feet-6, 255 pounds
Born: Aug. 3, 1984
Hometown: Denton, Texas
Round: First (17th overall)
Comment: Chasing down Ohio State's Troy Smith for two sacks and a forced fumble in the national championship game catapulted his draft stock. Already started bulking up slender frame, but he is foremost a speed rusher who teams with Elvis Dumervil to potentially give the Broncos their best pass-rushing duo since Bertrand Berry and Trevor Pryce in 2003.
Tim Crowder, defensive end
Height, weight: 6-4, 270
Born: June 30, 1985
Hometown: Tyler, Texas
Round: Second (56th overall)
Comment: Bigger than Jarvis Moss, and his 4.69-second time in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine was a tick quicker than Moss' 4.70. Solid player who is strong against the run. Improved his pass-rushing skills each of his four seasons with the Longhorns. Will have to beat out veterans Kenard Lang, Ebenezer Ekuban and John Engelberger for playing time.
Ryan Harris, offensive tackle
Height, weight: 6-5, 292
Born: March 11, 1985
Hometown: St. Paul, Minn.
School: Notre Dame
Round: Third (70th overall)
Comment: The Millennial Generation's version of a Renaissance man, Harris has served as a political intern, appeared in an MTV reality show series and is a practicing Muslim. After blocking for quarterback Joe Mauer in high school and Brady Quinn in college, Harris is training for the possibility of blocking as a rookie for Jay Cutler should veteran left tackle Matt Lepsis suffer a setback in his recovery from knee surgery.
Marcus Thomas, defensive tackle
Height, weight: 6-3, 296
Born: Sept. 23, 1985
Hometown: Jacksonville, Fla.
Round: Fourth (121st overall)
Comment: The X-factor in the Broncos' draft, Thomas is considered to have the greatest NFL potential but is a risk because of character issues, particularly with marijuana. Kicked off Florida's national championship team last fall, Thomas appeared rusty at Broncos' mini-camp sessions. So it would be a surprise if he contributes before midseason.
Last edited by SoCalBronco; 07-22-2007 at 04:39 AM..
|07-22-2007, 04:38 AM||#2|
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Arcadia, CA
10 questions entering training camp
By Mike Klis
Denver Post staff writer
Article Last Updated: 07/21/2007 11:58:09 PM MDT
Javon Walker has yet to address the media in the wake of Darrent Williams' death. (Post / Tim Rasmussen)As the Broncos prepare to report to training camp Saturday, NFL reporter Mike Klis breaks down 10 questions facing the team:
1 Is the Super Bowl a fair expectation for Jay Cutler?
Ben Roethlisberger guided the Steelers to an NFL championship in his second season. Tom Brady did it with the Patriots. Much like Brady in the 2001 season and Roethlisberger in 2005, Cutler's primary job this season will be minimizing mistakes more than producing big plays.
2 Who replaces D.J. Williams at outside linebacker?
On first and second downs, the Broncos will give the first opportunity to Eddie Moore and Warrick Holdman. They were signed as free agents. Steve Cargile, a safety, also will get a look as a nickel linebacker. Williams moves to middle linebacker with the loss of Al Wilson.
3 Which defensive linemen are going to play?
Remember the Fearsome Foursome? The Broncos might have an Evil Eightsome, or something. Two sets of four linemen rotated during mini-camps - ends John Engelberger and Kenard Lang and tackles Sam Adams and Alvin McKinley on running downs, ends Jarvis Moss and Elvis Dumervil and tackles Gerard Warren and Ebenezer Ekuban (shifting from end) on passing downs. Also, tackle Jimmy Kennedy and end Tim Crowder are expected to work their way into playing time during training camp.
4 Can the offensive line take care of the newcomers at the skill positions?
National pundits are calling the offensive line the Broncos' biggest question mark, in part because there hasn't been a Pro Bowl selection there since center Tom Nalen in 2003. There might be more sacks allowed this year, at least until Cutler gets a better feel for the pass rush, but the 2007 line will be bigger at right guard, where Chris Kuper or Montrae Holland will replace Cooper Carlisle, and better at right tackle, where Erik Pears replaces the
John Lynch, 35, and Nick Ferguson, 32, the oldest pair of starting safeties in the NFL, execute drills during mini-camp at Dove Valley in May. (Post / John Leyba)departed George Foster. And don't forget, Daniel Graham is arguably the NFL's best blocking tight end.
5 Are the safeties' ages a concern?
John Lynch (36 in September) and Nick Ferguson (33 in November) form the league's oldest safety tandem. But Lynch is an intimidating hitter and Ferguson an exceptional cover safety. The Broncos aren't overly concerned, as evidenced by the fact that they haven't selected a safety in the past two drafts. However, moves were made to improve pass coverage with the arrival of Dré Bly, who teams with Champ Bailey at cornerback, and the shift of Williams, who is faster than Wilson, to middle linebacker.
6 How will the offense use Graham, Tony Scheffler and Stephen Alexander at tight end?
Graham will be the every-down player. Graham expects closer to the 34 catches and 5 1/2 touchdowns he averaged from 2003-04 with New Eng- land than the 18 1/2 catches and 2 1/2 touchdowns of his past two years. If Scheffler is healed from his broken foot and in condition by the end of training camp, he should have 40 catches this season. Alexander, who is versatile, may be used in some three tight-end sets.
7 How has the murder of cornerback Darrent Williams affected the Broncos?
In the locker room, the players appear more united after going through the grieving process together. Off the field, several players say they are more cautiously
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aware of potential conflicts in social settings. On the field, Williams was replaced at right corner by two-time Pro Bowl player Bly and in the return game by Domenik Hixon.
8 How has Javon Walker been coping?
When Williams was slain in the back of a limo on New Year's morning, he collapsed into Walker's lap. By all accounts, Walker was understandably shaken for weeks afterward, but he also was considered a pro's pro during the team's offseason program. Walker has yet to address the media since Williams was killed, but he may do so early in training camp.
9 Who has a chance to win the Bradlee Van Pelt Award as the star of preseason?
There is only one Bradlee, whose magnetic personality and linebacker style of quarterback play made him the most fascinating story of the Broncos' past two preseasons. Van Pelt now is with Houston, leaving the Broncos with the more proven, and less outspoken, Patrick Ramsey to take most of the preseason snaps as the backup quarterback.
10 Did the Broncos do enough to improve their special teams?
How bad were the Broncos' special teams last year? They ranked 32nd in the 32-team league with an average starting field position at the 27.0-yard line and 31st with an opponent starting field position at the 33.5-yard line. Three key special teams areas were attacked in the offseason - coach, by hiring Scott O'Brien, whose teams have recorded 25 punt or kickoff touchdown returns in his 14 seasons as an NFL special teams coach; returner in Hixon, who had a promising offseason after missing his rookie year because of injuries; and punter, with the return of Todd Sauerbrun.
|07-22-2007, 08:15 AM||#3|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Mar 2006
good read on both posts...i guess we really can't get any worse on ST than last year. I think our biggest quesions are at OL, LB and WR in that order.
|07-22-2007, 01:02 PM||#4|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Seattle, WA
(as is per usual) Good stuff SoCal. Living here in the Seattle area, it is good to get these types of off-season posts.
|07-22-2007, 01:27 PM||#5|
Anybody want a peanut?
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Ceti Alpha V
|07-22-2007, 02:47 PM||#6|
DERP DERP DERP
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Broncos Country
Man did the field position KILL us last year. How many times did we start at the 20 or inside? And then only to go 3 and out, punt a 40 yard punt, and the opponents have the ball at midfield. GAH.
|07-22-2007, 03:18 PM||#8|
Join Date: Aug 2006
This is the first time I've read that Harris is a practicing Muslim; do we know if he plans to observe the month of Ramadan with fasting during the day (like safety Hamza Abdullah)?
I wonder how much this would affect an offensive lineman whose bread-and-butter is predicated on his mass.