What We Learned: Day 3 from Broncos Training Camp
By Nate Winkler
Ahhhhh….the first day of pads…where the bodies and the cliché’s fly at training camps throughout the land. Whatever you do, don’t agree to take a drink every time somebody says “real football”, because you’ll end up in the hospital.
The Denver Broncos strapped it up today for the first time in the young 2014 season, and as noted here by LB Lerentee McCray (courtesy of Lauren Guidice), “ You’ve got to love to put pads on because you get to hit somebody. If you dread putting the pads on then you don’t need to be playing football.”
The Enver Broncos might actually be on to something with this whole Efense thing.
As you surely noticed, I forgot to add the “D” in the sentence above, just like the Broncos forgot to bring theirs at critical times last year. I’m sick of hearing about all the injuries and about how much better the defense will be this year. I’m not from Missouri, but they’re still going to have to “Show-Me”.
The Broncos did just that today according to just about everyone who was there. As reported by the team’s own Andrew Mason, newcomers DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward, and Marvin Austin all raised eyebrows today by making tone -setting plays against the first-team offense. Bubble cornerbacks Omar Bolden and Kayvon Webster also made noteworthy plays.
“ You’ve got to love to put pads on because you get to hit somebody. If you dread putting the pads on then you don’t need to be playing football.” – Lerentee McCray
Even with the anticipated return of the walking wounded from last year, Denver’s defense must find a way to be “nasty”. Ware is off to a great start to proving he has something left in the tank but it’s a long time until January.
Ward is the thumper the Broncos have traditionally had in the defensive backfield and looks up to the task of carrying the Smith/Atwater/Lynch/Dawkins torch. He has the look of a man capable of doing very bad things, which is exactly what this defense has been missing.
There’s a long way to go, but Ronnie Hillman might be the running back left out in the cold.
Montee Ball has all but been handed the starting running back position, although his ability to pass protect for Peyton Manning remains a serious question. C.J. Anderson, who made the roster last year as an undrafted rookie, is a fan favorite and is projected to make the team barring injury.
That likely leaves one running back position open, and Hillman, the former 3rd round draft pick in 2012, had ball security issues last season and went from being Knowshon Moreno’s primary backup to a healthy scratch by season’s end.
Oct 20, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Denver Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman (21) sits on the bench after his fumble during the fourth quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Colts defeated the Broncos 39-33. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
The Broncos currently have seven RB’s in camp, with undrafted rookies Kapri Bibbs, Brennan Clay, Juwan Thompson, and one-year practice squad veteran Jerodis Williams competing with Hillman for the projected final spot. Bibbs is a local favortie after a career at Colorado State, and has been fielding kicks early in camp as well (something Hillman used to do).
An undrafted rookie has made the Broncos roster out of training camp for nine straight years and there is no reason to believe that streak won’t be extended to 10. Bibbs drew rave reviews from many in today’s practice, including the usually spot-on Cecil Lammey:
Hillman has more fumbles (4) than touchdowns (2) in his career and he has rushed for 545 yards on 139 carries (3.9 avg) while appearing in 23 games with the Broncos in the past two seasons. Hardly the kind of production Elway & Co. were hoping for, which explains why they drafted Montee Ball just one year later, seemingly acknowledging their mistake. Barring an injury to one of the guys currently penciled in ahead of him or a sudden turnaround, Hillman’s days appear to be numbered.
The story lines are sure to change as camp progresses, but after the first day of pads, it is clear the defense is out to set the tone for the Broncos. It is also clear that there are still question marks, most notably in the offensive backfield. Make sure to check back with Predominantly Orange every day as we bring you the latest updates from Dove Valley.