|07-24-2007, 04:17 AM||#1|
Join Date: Apr 2006
Mailbag: Get primed for practice
Paul from Arizona plans his first-ever trip to training camp
By Mike Klis
Denver Post Staff Writer
Denver Post sports writer Mike Klis posts his Broncos Mailbag every Tuesday during the 2007 National Football League season on DenverPost.com.
To drop a Broncos- or NFL-related question into the Broncos Mailbag click here or visit DenverPost.com's Broncos Page.
Mike - I'm looking for some info on training camp: date, times, etc. Any tips for someone coming to his first Broncos training camp? Thanks.
-- Paul White, Arizona
Paul - Better fuel up. Training camp opens Sunday and will run through Saturday, Aug. 11. For the most part, training camp has two sessions a day, although coach Mike Shanahan gives at least a dozen veterans the afternoon session off. So go to the morning sessions, which start at 8:30. By far, the two most exciting sessions will be Saturday, Aug. 4 and Saturday, Aug. 11. This is when the offense and defense go at each other pretty good in semi-contact scrimmages. At no other time - not at the stadium on game day; not on TV - do fans have a chance to witness the tremendous speed, strength and force of NFL players at such close range. It's all free, so you can't beat it.
The only problem with those Saturday scrimmages is a couple thousand other people like them, too. It can get pretty crowded, especially when there's no bleacher seating.
One other tip: If you want to avoid the wrath of the otherwise likeable Fred Fleming, who oversees all things Broncos, silence your cellphone and leave your video camera in your car.
Hey, Mike. We haven't heard much from mini-camp about Mike Bell. We all know Travis Henry will be the major ball carrier, but will Bell hold on to the very important, yet underrated No. 2 spot?
-- Jay Macias, Washington
Jay - One of the storylines from mini-camp was that former Colorado State star Cecil Sapp was pushing Bell for the No. 2 tailback spot. In fact, Sapp, who has mostly played fullback with the Broncos, ran ahead of Bell on some series in the final mini-camp session.
My personal hunch is the Broncos were a little disappointed in Bell's offseason and were merely trying to push him. He may never become a No. 1 back because he's not quick enough, but he can be effective in the Marion Barber III-type role, especially around the goal line. Even with Henry the undisputed No. 1 ball carrier, I would expect Bell to get enough carries as a backup to match the 677 yards and eight touchdowns from his rookie season.
Mike - At the end of last season, it seemed like Jay Cutler was out of sync with his center - especially in the last two games - leading to a number of broken plays and a few fumbles. Any chance we see a recurrence of this fan-frustrating phenomenon? Nothing worse than a broken play on third down in the red zone.
-- Dan, Stockholm, Sweden
Dan - It's not everyday we receive such perceptive football observations from Sweden. Welcome. Seemed to me like there was a botched snap exchange once a game in the final five games with Cutler. Because center Tom Nalen never had a snap problem with Jake Plummer or, going way back, John Elway, I assume blame for the fumbled exchanges lies with Cutler. Perhaps, it was just one of the unexpected risks with inserting a new quarterback so late into the season.
You're right - it better not be a problem this year. It's an inexcusable mistake at the lower college level, much less the NFL. Cutler and Nalen had all offseason to work on it, and they'll get plenty more reps in training camp and the preseason, so the exchange should become automatic this year. Then again, I was surprised the problem went beyond the second fumbled snap last season.
Who do you expect to play linebacker along with Ian Gold and D.J. Williams? I saw that Eddie Moore, who finished his first three seasons on injured reserve with Miami and was out of football in 2006, was running with the first team in mini-camp. Is this an area of concern?
-- Bryan Scott, Washington
Bryan - I was concerned about D.J. Williams' old strongside linebacker position until I was reminded it's only on the field for roughly 30 to 50 percent of the plays. Remember, Williams came off the field whenever the Broncos felt their opponents might pass, so this particular linebacker position might be the less critical of the 11 defensive spots.
That said, first down is arguably the most important play of any series (with third down in the discussion), and strongside linebacker is vital in stopping the run. After the defensive line, strongside linebacker figures to be the most fiercely contested competition in camp with the top candidates being Moore and two other veteran free agents, Warrick Holdman and D.D. Lewis.
If the strongside linebacker stays in on passing downs, the Broncos have been looking at Steve Cargile, who is a safety by trade.
Do you think the Broncos defense will be back to its form of last year's first several weeks - or will it be better?
-- Corey J. Smith, Painted Post, N.Y.
Corey - There are too many unknown variables before determining whether Denver's D will be better or worse than last year, but what is certain is that it will be different. The defense last year was spectacularly fast and athletic - which was great through six games when it tied an NFL record by allowing just two touchdowns, but unmistakably wore down from there.
It was that second-half fade - meaning both the second half of games and second half of the season - that convinced the Broncos they needed more body mass upfront. They also realized they needed a stronger pass rush, especially on third down, if they were going to get off the field and/or force more turnovers.
Under new defensive boss Jim Bates, the Broncos will be considerably more stout upfront against the run on first down, quicker off the edges on third down and hope to be more tenacious ballhawks on every down. During the final mini-camp in July, the No. 1 defense usually got the better of the No. 1 offense. Especially, look for the linebackers to make bigger plays.
Last year, Gold, Williams and Al Wilson combined for zero interceptions and two sacks. In 2005, they had zero interceptions and seven sacks. That's zero interceptions from three starting linebackers in two years. Compare that to the Bears' Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, who combined for five picks last year, not to mention 276 tackles.
Hey, Mike. I know that this is hard to call, and sports writers hate to do this, but could you predict what the Broncos might go if they play as predicted (e.g. 10-6, 13-3, etc.)? Thanks so much.
-- Adam, Anchorage, Alaska
Adam - Just looked it up and the forecast for Anchorage today (July 24) calls for 58 degrees and rain. How wonderful that sounds as training camp is about to begin in sun-baked Colorado. Anyway, I got the Broncos finishing with an 11-5 regular-season record and getting past the first round of the playoffs. It should be noted this is my third consecutive prediction of 11-5, and I've been off by two games each of the past two seasons. The Broncos were 13-3 in 2005 and 9-7 last year.
This year's Broncos? On paper, it's a Super Bowl-caliber team, loaded with talent on both sides. But I can see this team experiencing the occasional dip because: it will take time for all these new players and coaches to mesh; Jay Cutler is an inexperienced quarterback; and the AFC has arguably the NFL's four most-talented teams in San Diego, New England, Indianapolis and Denver.
Like Pittsburgh in 2005 and Indy last year, the key for the Broncos will be to get in the playoffs and hope they're playing their best football in those four postseason games.
Hey, Mike. Who do you think will be the best player at his position this season: Travis Henry, Dré Bly, Daniel Graham or Jay Cutler?
-- Doug, Castle Rock
Doug - I like this question. My initial answer: Hmmmm. Good question. Seriously, I think there will be games where Cutler is the hero, but a couple others where he makes costly mistakes.
I can see Bly finishing with seven or eight interceptions, but after talking to people who follow the Detroit Lions, it sounds as if Jim Bates is going to have to make a hard sell on the benefits of tackling.
Henry and the Broncos' one-cut/zone-blocking system appear to be a perfect marriage, but expectations are so high, 1,300 yards won't meet them.
So I'll go with Graham. The biggest part of his job is to block, and who really knows how well anybody blocks? If he gets 35 receptions, scores a couple touchdowns, and the Broncos effectively run the ball, Graham will be credited for a job well done - and then some.
|07-24-2007, 04:45 AM||#2|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: 63 Yards Out
1 Elam 1
Cutler will be lights out! This guy is going to be able to overcome any big mistake he makes on the next series - he's got the desire to win and succeed but most importantly an arm than can match any lead the opponent might get against this team. Young Elway comes to mind. Travis Henry will also have a great year, but it's tough to stay healthy at RB when your in the Broncos stable.
|07-24-2007, 11:03 AM||#3|
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|07-24-2007, 11:10 AM||#4|
Tebowing the long haul
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: TX, USA