Despite inarguably the worst July weather I have experienced in my lifetime of visits to Colorado, the Broncos were out on the field Wednesday afternoon in front of about 9,200 die hard fans at Sports Authority Field.
I was able to take in practice and see this team in person, the one that I believe is the best team the Broncos have ever fielded, potentially. Earlier on Wednesday, I took to Twitter to share my observations of camp, and there are plenty. Try to keep your brain from spinning here, and stay with me.
- Rookie wide receiver Cody Latimer is the real deal. There are some who’ve been saying he’s not as big as you might think, but he makes defensive backs look small, that much is certain, and he blows past them with relative ease. One of the day’s highlight plays came when Latimer skied over two defenders deep downfield to catch a deep ball from Peyton Manning. It’s clear that Latimer is too talented for the Broncos to stash him away for significant time. He’ll find his way onto the field some way or another even if it’s limited due to the Broncos’ big plans for Demaryius and Julius Thomas, Wes Welker, and Emmanuel Sanders.
- Speaking of Sanders, his quickness and speed are even more astounding in person than people make it sound. He has such great control over it too, he’s able to stop on a dime and change directions. The Broncos sent him deep one play and he made Aqib Talib look a bit like Quintin Jammer, circa 2013. Another couple of times, and the weather likely had something to do with this, Sanders’ quickness caused Talib to fall to the ground.
- Ronnie Hillman had a couple of nice plays, including a run where he bounced to the outside and blew by the pursuit. I’m not going to crown Hillman with anything yet, but I agree with my colleague here at PO Khalid Alshami in that I think Hillman is at worst guaranteed a roster spot. The Broncos have been rotating the #2 running back spot this offseason but I think the job is Hillman’s to lose. He is the only back on the team with explosive speed, and he’s also getting reps as a kick returner.
- The offensive line was abused in one-on-one drills today. At one point I legitimately thought it was a drill strictly for the defensive linemen, as the offensive linemen appeared to be almost going through the motions. They rebounded some in team drills, but I felt like today was won by the defensive line.
- Brock Osweiler was pretty impressive today, and it’s clear to see at least based on what I’ve heard thus far how much he’s separated himself from Zac Dysert. Osweiler has much better placement on his passes and has a really strong arm to boot. He made one particular pass today to Nathan Palmer for a touchdown that couldn’t have been handed to him any better. I’ll be excited to see Osweiler’s development in game situations. His 2-minute drill went a lot like last year’s pre-season games where he would start off hot and complete a few nice passes, but the drive stalled and they ended up not scoring.
- Demaryius Thomas was being eased back into the rotation after attending to family matters last week. He was wearing shoulder pads but I couldn’t tell if he had his leg gear on.
- Marvin Austin has got me all kinds of hyped. I was paying close attention to Austin today after his strong start to camp, and he did not disappoint. His quickness is evident, and he uses his hands and strength really well. He crushed Matt Paradis two plays in a row in one-on-one drills, and got extensive work in the first unit with Sylvester Williams today. The Broncos are clearly enamored by Austin’s potential and he could see significant action this season.
- The depth on the defensive line is just unfair. DeMarcus Ware didn’t even practice, but you could see how strong the Broncos are going to be up front. Malik Jackson and Derek Wolfe made some plays, but I was really impressed by Sylvester Williams. His quickness is incredible. The big man exploded through the line one play to sack Peyton Manning before hew as able to get off a play action fake. Orlando Franklin didn’t even know what had happened. It takes a lot for me to be blown away by interior defensive linemen, and two guys did it today at Broncos practice.
- The defense as a whole is really, really fast. There were three consecutive plays — the sack by Williams, a PBU by Kayvon Webster, and a nice tackle by Danny Trevathan on Montee Ball — that would have put the offense on the sideline after three plays. You can see the Broncos are playing with a chip on their shoulder as individuals and as a unit.
- Chris Harris was back in pads for the Broncos today, albeit on a limited basis. He was replaced in the base defense by Kayvon Webster, who had an outstanding practice.
- In one-on-one drills, K-Webb broke up a pass intended for Wes Welker, and then had some really nice plays in team work including a sack. He also had the play of the day in 2-minute drill, when he picked of a Peyton Manning pass and took it to the house with a convoy around him. It had to leave a sour taste in Peyton’s mouth. It’s really encouraging to see the development of Webster, who has kind of gone overlooked all offseason. He may, in fact, be one of the Broncos’ most improved young players.
- UDFA Kenny Anunike flashed some of what I’ve been hearing. He has nice quickness around the edge, and beat Chris Clark in the one-on-one session.
- Von Miller saw limited action in this practice and doesn’t appear to be holding much back when he’s out on the field. He read a stretch run play, waited for Montee Ball to get to his side of the field, and promptly threw his man to the side, burst into the backfield, and hit Ball all in one fell swoop. Ball was shocked to see Von there, nearly falling backwards.
- Some interesting names got work with the 1st team defense throughout the day: Lerentee McCray, Brandon Marshall, Marvin Austin, Quinton Carter, and Bradley Roby.
- Lerentee McCray had arguably the best day among the defenders, along with Webster. McCray shut down a running back (couldn’t see number) in coverage drills, showed excellent burst around the edge and gave Ryan Clady all he could handle, and is on track to be a significant contributor this season.
If you have a question about any player or position group you’re wondering about, I would be glad to answer in the comments.