The 2014 offseason is one of the saddest this team has experienced in years. You may ask why? Or why is this journalist so delusional? I’ll tell you why and it is very simple, training camp is not open to the fans this season. The Broncos organization has made training camp fully open to fans in years past at Dove Valley, but that is not the case this year as the team is in the middle of construction for new state of the art facilities. Why does any of this matter?
It matters because to make up for it, the team has decided to hold 3 open practices at Sports Authority Field at Mile High for the fans to attend. Why is any of this important??? It’s just another clear display that the Denver Broncos are one of the best managed teams top to bottom and that they put a clear emphasis on making the fans a part of this team.
Today the Broncos held their first open practice, where a whopping 22,000 fans came out to get their first look at the new-look Broncos. It’s been a long time since Broncos Country have been able to relish in the presence of their football team. 189 days to be exact. I want to first focus on the effect the return has had on the fanbase and the team.
First and foremost, the effect of the upcoming football season was no more apparent than on the face of Rahim Moore, who was brought to tears upon returning to Mile High! For those who do not know, Rahim Moore was having a career year in 2013, before a career threatening injury almost took his leg, so of all the players on that field today, it meant the most to Rahim Moore. “We’ve got the best fans ever in NFL history,” Rahim Moore said after practice. “It’s a blessing to be out here.”
What a simple training camp practice has meant for Rahim Moore is wholly the reason why Broncos Country is so enamored with their team. For new faces such as DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward, Emmanuel Sanders, Bradley Roby and Cody Latimer, it was a chance to meet the fanbase that will fall in love with them over the course of the 2014 season. For others, it is just another chance to reconnect.
Onwards to the performances today. First thought goes to the running backs. All indications show this being an extremely tight race, with the top 3 backs all having impressive days. The top 2 backs, Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman, had solid runs on back-to-back plays and C.J. Anderson showed an ability to get to the edge all practice long. Ball and Hillman both looked explosive today, with solid bursts. Ball has been showing steady improvement in pass protection, and Hillman may be showing some versatility by taking kickoffs today.
Also on offense, Bubba Caldwell made a huge play, leaping over Aqib Talib to win a jump ball for a huge 39 yard play. Manning connected with Wes Welker in the red zone twice, once for a beautiful TD and another time with Welker being stopped at the goalline. Manning also hooked up with Emmanuel Sanders, including a pretty one-handed grab early during practice.
Jacob Tamme also caught a TD but that was not the play of the day. That award goes to little known WR, Greg Hardin. Hardin showed up first with a 45 yard connection with Brock Osweiler, where he beat Kayvon Webster and Rahim Moore to make a diving grab. Hardin wasn’t done, making a pretty touchdown grab in the red zone, as well. Isiah Burse also found paydirt on a secondary breakdown, showing off his speed to finish off the play.
On defense, there is some really exciting news to share, and it does not regard any of the Broncos’ recent additions. Sylvester “Sly” Williams showed his speed today, getting in the backfield and blowing up a Ball run and chasing him to the sideline where Lerentee McCray was in position to make a stop. He was constantly in the backfield, disrupting plays on Sunday. This is great news, following an uneventful rookie season for the former 1st round pick.
Speaking of McCray, both he and Shaquil Barrett have been in quite the battle to back up starting SLB, Von Miller, with both getting consistent pressure and making numerous plays. The defensive line in general came ready to play, with Ware and McCray both recording sacks. Each quarterback was under duress and pressured.
In the secondary, Bradley Roby made a big play to save a touchdown by breaking up a pass intended for Julius Thomas. On the next play, T.J. Ward read Manning’s progressions and was able to knock away another pass intended for Thomas at the goalline. Throughout the first few days of camp, the D has made it clear that they will be a force to be reckoned with, all while missing Von Miller, Kevin Vickerson and Chris Harris, all of which have been limited during camp, with Harris residing on the PUP list. More to come in the days ahead, with the Broncos holding an open practice on Wednesday, July 30th with the doors opening at 10:30 at Sports Authority Field.