The Denver Broncos wrapped up OTAs this week, and with that we have just about a month before training camp kicks off and the pads come on.
Not much is usually made about OTAs, but the Broncos have star power and unprecedented access from their PR department, so there’s a ton to talk about. Here are five things you need to know about Broncos OTAs and minicamp, which are done and in the books.
1. The Defense Has Sick Depth
Every day of OTAs and minicamp, it seemed like another story was being written about a Broncos’ defensive player that was either coming back from injury or ready to make a significant contribution in 2014. With the additions of DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, and T.J. Ward as well as first round pick Bradley Roby, the Broncos fortified their starting unit and added significant depth in the form of returning players from a year ago, both injured and not.
By my count, the Broncos’ defense will have nine different players in starting roles on opening day as compared to the Super Bowl, where only Terrance Knighton and Danny Trevathan will return to their normal spots. Nate Irving could start as well, but will likely be at inside linebacker with Von Miller back in the SAM linebacker spot.
New starters will include aforementioned Ware, Talib, Ward, and Roby, as well as Chris Harris, Miller, Derek Wolfe, and Rahim Moore.
Other guys coming back from injury include Quanterus Smith (DE) and Quinton Carter (S) who were both on IR last year. Those guys got in first-team reps with the Broncos’ defense, and provide excellent backup additions. The Broncos also have starting experience from young players like Duke Ihenacho, Sly Williams, and significant playoff experience for defensive backs Kayvon Webster, Tony Carter, David Bruton, and Omar Bolden.
The competition will be stiff.
2. Expectations for Emmanuel Sanders are HIGH
Sanders has been a phenomenal fit for the Broncos’ offense, by all accounts, and provides explosiveness and versatility to line up all over the formation.
He’s also putting in extra work with Peyton Manning to get down hand signals and timing after practice.
This dude is for real, and can be special in this offense.
3. Montee Ball Has Star Potential
I think one story that’s getting plenty of hype but not nearly enough merit is that of Montee Ball. I don’t know if Broncos fans realize how good he was at Wisconsin with three different QBs and teams keying in on their running game.
Ball was a college legend, but is a smart cookie and the type of player that fits the Broncos’ offense to a ‘t’. His versatility as a receiver gives the Broncos an added third down option and with the confidence the coaches have in him, he’s primed to burst onto the scene as a star back in the NFL this season.
4. Offensive Line Battles
The right tackle position is up for grabs. I wrote about this before, but the Broncos have at least three or four legitimate options at the right tackle position right now, including potentially kicking Orlando Franklin back to that spot.
The ideal scenario would be for one of Chris Clark, Winston Justice, or Michael Schofield to start at the right tackle slot with Franklin staying at left guard.
That competition appears to be just heating up.
5. Cody Latimer is the Real Deal
In 2013, the Broncos got a one year ‘learn on the job’ prospect in Montee Ball, who was the team’s second in line for carries. This year, that guy is Cody Latimer, whose physical ability and dominance could turn into more playing time than originally anticipated.
I fully expect Latimer to win #4 receiver duties with the Broncos, and play at times extensively creating major mismatches with the Broncos’ offensive personnel.