The first day of Denver Broncos’ training camp is finally here. So what does that mean? To keep it in perspective, not a whole lot. Now don’t get me wrong, I am as happy as the next guy or gal that our beloved Broncos are back to work. This day represents the first day that meaningful football activities for the players take place. Sure the OTA’s are nice but it’s really just more of a glorified workout. Let’s face it though; OTA’s, the draft, and free agency really just act as stop-gaps between the Super Bowl and the opening kickoff of the following season. To that end, so is most of training camp, save for the 3rd preseason game. However as an NFL-centric society, these are the fixes that hold us football junkies over until the regular season starts. Today’s training camp opener is the day that bridges the malaise of the offseason to Game 1 of the new season.
After the first couple of weeks of our own guys knocking the stuffing out of each other twice a day we then get the Kabuki Theater disguised as the first two pre-season games. Honestly, I do get a little psyched to see about 80 guys in Broncos’ uniforms running around Sports Authority Field at Mile High playing the game we love. However, when I realize that the majority of those orange-clad behemoths we see in the better part of 13 of the 16 quarters of pre-season football will either not be on the opening day, 53-man roster or will be so far down the depth chart we won’t be able to tell them apart from any other face in the crowd, that excitement does get tempered ever so slightly.
I know I sound cynical but after 40+ pre-seasons I just don’t get that worked up for camp or the preseason games as a whole. What I do like about the start of camp is that we finally hear (and in the case of us here at Predominantly Orange, report) news about the team as it relates what happens on the field. I do enjoy watching that those aforementioned behemoths giving us something to divert attention away from off-season stories of non football activity-related issues. After all a few of them will actually make an impact in one form or another. Thus it makes it a little interesting to guess who those few guys are that will fill those last five or so available positions. This training camp allows us to focus on roster spots, team cohesion, and positional battles as opposed to DUI’s, drug suspensions, contract negotiations, and other off the field nonsense that has beleaguered Denver this off season.
There are a few things I am looking forward to in training camp 2013. One of which is the growing on-field relationship between QB Peyton Manning and his newest weapon, Wes Welker. Furthermore I am excited to see what kind of match-up problems Welker, along with Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas will present for opposing defenses. I’m really interested in the competition between the running backs. For whatever training camp and the preseason games are worth, I think we will be treated to some pretty good RB play from Knowshon Moreno, Ronnie Hillman, Montee Ball, Lance Ball, C.J. Anderson, Jacob Hester, and Jeremiah Johnson as they battle for approximately five available openings at the position. Since there are really no slam dunks or a primary back in this group, I expect these guys to play their (insert body part here) off.
On defense, I am going to be focusing on the middle linebacker spot vacated by the departed D.J. Williams. VP of football operations, John Elway stated that he and the staff believe in the abilities of Nate Irving and Stevie Johnson to fill that spot. Unless somebody else steps up or these guys disappoint, I expect one of these two to be in the starting lineup on September 5th. To be honest, if Von Miller does in fact get suspended for 4 games due to alleged repeated substance abuse offenses, both Irving and Johnson may be in some sort of rotation along with new comer, Bradley Stewart between the inside and outside LB spots. All three of them will be worth keeping an eye on in the preseason. Another point of interest on defense is the play of the defensive backfield. There are as many questions as answers among the DB’s based on their performance, or lack thereof, last post-season. How will Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Quentin Jammer adapt to their new surroundings and positions? Is Champ Bailey still Champ Bailey? And how will Raheem Moore bounce back after his Bill Buckner moment in the playoffs? Lastly and perhaps most importantly is how will the front seven compensate for the 11 sacks and outside pressure created by the departed Elvis Dumervil? This will shine the spotlight on the likes of second-year DE, Derek Wolfe and veterans like Robert Ayers, and the newly acquired Shaun Phillips.
Of course, the thing we pay attention to every year in training camp and preseason is the health of the players. The Broncos have their share of injuries in positions of importance; most notably, on the offensive line. It was announced yesterday that center, J.D. Walton and guard, Chris Kuper will begin training camp on the P.U.P. (Physically Unable to Perform) list.
One last thing to pay attention to in Broncos Camp 2013 is the fact that they are still about $10.5 million under the salary cap and that does not include the money saved by the release of Joe Mays and a couple of other returning veterans possibly on the chopping block. There are still some quality players on the free agent market, such as John Abraham whom the Broncos might want to consider signing.
So on day one, what you see is not what you get. Even though camp and preseason games are more of a quick fix for fans to get us through to the season opener (as is evident by fans lining up outside of Dove Valley at midnight last night to get a good vantage point of day 1 of camp), there are still plenty of story lines to garner our attention for the next five weeks. So Happy Camping, Broncoholics!