The 2013 season has officially kicked off in Broncos Country and it didn’t take long for things to get interesting.
The fans have been going back and forth between unbridled enthusiasm and disappointment since just before training camp started last week.
It all began with the horrible news that Von miller was facing a four-game suspension for violating the league’s drug policy. That wasn’t exactly the way Denver wanted to come out of the gate. But the negative feelings have waned some with news he has a strong case for an appeal that could lead to a reduced suspension or it being overturned altogether.
Even with the Miller situation hanging over the start of camp, practices began with much fanfare at Dove Valley. Over 3,000 people were in attendance for the first few practices and they were closely covered by the national media.
Such is life when Super Bowl expectations are so high. Not to mention Peyton Manning has proven to be quite the national draw since he signed up a little over a year ago.
Almost immediately, some good news started coming out of training camp. Manning is looking better than ever. He’s obviously more comfortable than he was a year ago at this time and he looks much stronger.
Maybe even more impressive at the QB position is the play of back-up Brock Osweiler. He’s looking much more polished and turning heads with his powerful arm.
At the skill positions, RB Ronnie Hillman and WR Wes Welker have been shining. Hillman looks to have a sizable lead to begin the year as the #1 running back. He came in with more bulk and has improved noticeably as a receiver and a pass blocker. Welker has an obvious knack to find open space in the secondary and reports at camp are he’s been “schooling” defenders.
On the defensive side, tackle and first round pick Sylvester Williams signed his contract so all rookies are hard at work. Derek Wolfe and Robert Ayers both look ready to break out on the defensive line in 2013, and cornerback Chris Harris is benefitting from lining up against Welker in practice. According to Cecil Lammey of ESPN Denver the battles between Harris and Welker have become a treat to watch. No doubt the defense is going to be better off for practicing against possibly the best offense in the league.
In general, it’s staggering to keep an eye on camp and realize how much talent there is on this team. Considering where they were three years ago it’s hard to believe where they are today. A 13-3 club last season, the additions of playmakers such as Welker, DE/LB Shaun Philips, OG Louis Vasquez, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, just to name a few, have turned this team into a top Super Bowl contender. That is what has Broncos Country at a fever pitch right now.
But the emotional roller coaster at Dove Valley hit another low on Sunday with the news that center Dan Koppen suffered a season-ending knee injury. Training camp injuries are not uncommon, but to see a projected starter suffer a catastrophic injury before the first snap of a preseason game is disheartening.
Koppen had been re-signed in the offseason to provide stability to an offensive line that is battling injury issues across the board, but now it’s a big question mark heading into the season.
Losing Koppen makes things more difficult, but this injury can be overcome. It’s disappointing to lose any starter, but most would agree there are quite a few names ahead of Koppen on the list of players Denver can least afford to lose.
The Broncos will turn to Manny Ramirez and Philip Blake to pick up the slack, and they also signed free agent Steve Vallos, previously of the Jaguars, for additional depth and competition. And they may not be done adding pieces to the line. As training camps around the league progress and talented players become roster casualties there may be more options for John Elway.
The key here is patience. There is still a long way to go before the season opener on September 5th. The Broncos will continuously monitor and address positions of need either due to injury or subpar performances. We are still a ways off from seeing the finished product.
In the meantime the team will be hard at work with their eye on the big trophy. And fans will be holding their breath on the Von Miller situation and crossing their fingers that Denver gets through the rest of training camp healthy.