Monday, August 5, 2013

Broncos Training Camp Day 12 Report: Injuries, Offensive Struggles

Guard Louis Vasquez spent time at right tackle on Monday when Orlando Franklin went down with an injury.
After getting Sunday off, the Denver Broncos returned to Dove Valley on Monday for their twelfth day of training camp.  The team was hit again by the injury bug and the offense at times looked sloppy, as the defense came to play and a surprise receiver turned heads.

Attendance and injury report

Middle linebacker Nate Irving was not present (excused for personal reasons), tight end Joel Dreessen (knee) did not participate as cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (ankle), wide receiver Greg Orton (ankle), and running back Jeremiah Johnson (toe) also sat out.

Tackle Ryan Clady was limited.
Left tackle Ryan Clady (shoulder) and safety Quinton Carter (knee) practiced on a limited basis, while right tackle Orlando Franklin (hip) and receiver Quincy McDuffie (hamstring) left the field during practice with injuries.  An MRI after practice for Franklin came back negative.

"(Franklin was) bumped and is being evaluated, so we'll keep you updated," an unworried coach John Fox said of Franklin's injury after practice.

In Franklin's absence, the team moved over offensive guard Louis Vasquez to right tackle.

"He's done that all camp," coach John Fox said of Vasquez moving around.  "We do practice our guards outside—that's something we've practiced all through camp.  It's an adjustment we made when Orlando left.

The team moved Ryan Lilja over to guard (replacing (Vasquez), with Chris Clark (in for Ryan Clady) at left tackle, Zane Beadles at guard and Rammy Ramirez at center.  When Clady returns to full health, Clark will likely fill in for Franklin—if Franklin's injury causes him to miss any time.

"We feel good about where we are right now on the offensive line," concluded Fox.

Photo album: Denver Broncos 2013 Training Camp (Day 12)

On a positive injury front, tight end Jacob Tamme (unknown) was back on a limited basis, as were rookie defensive linemen Quanterus Smith (knee) and Sylvester Williams (knee).

With DRC out, cornerback Tony Carter stepped up on Monday, going toe-to-toe with slot receiver Wes Welker and winning the battle on several deep ball drills.  In nickel defensive sets, Carter played across from Champ Bailey at cornerback.

As for Dreessen, he underwent additional surgery earlier today and is now expected to miss the entire preseason, as's Jeff Legwold reported.  With Dreessen out, Julius Thomas has stepped up.

Broncos are ready for live action on Thursday

The Broncos will travel to San Francisco later this week to take on the 49ers on Thursday in Week 1 of the preseason.  After nearly two weeks of banging each other's heads in practice, the players are excited to take the field against a real opponent for the first time this season.

“I’m looking forward to [Thursday], to get away from these guys and actually hit somebody that’s not your teammate.  That should be fun, I’m very excited about that," said starting running back Ronnie Hillman.

Admittedly, the game means little and will feature very little playing time for the starters, but it will give many of the younger players on Denver's roster a chance to prove themselves and fight for a roster spot.  As for the veterans, they can still be involved after leaving the game by coaching up the younger players.

"Once you came out of the game, you have to stay involved. For a lot of the guys, it will be their first live action in the pros, so you want to give them as much help as possible," noted cornerback Champ Bailey.

As for second-year quarterback Brock Osweiler, he's just hoping that everything goes over smoothly.

“If I can just get guys lined up in the right position and do the right thing for the play, and convert first downs and (score) touchdowns, I’ll be happy," said Osweiler.

Defensive Player of the Day: Wesley Woodyard

Linebacker Wesley Woodyard has a strong personality.  From talking smack to Demaryius Thomas during practice to joking around with the media, Woody always leaves an impression.

On Saturday during the team's scrimmage at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Osweiler was having trouble with his helmet radio and was gesturing to the sideline with his hands that he could not hear the play.  To help the situation, Woodyard and his teammates began waving their arms and getting the crowd involved, simulating a game-like situation for Osweiler, crowd noise and all.

On the practice field, Woodyard has been solid in pass coverage and against the run, playing smoothly and giving off the appearance of an experienced veteran, not a player about to enter his second season as a starting linebacker.

Offensive Player of the Day: Andre "Bubba" Caldwell

Woodyard performed well on Monday, but it was his talking that made him stand out.  As for Bubba Caldwell, my offensive player of the day, he let his play on the field do all of his talking.

Caldwell first wowed the crowd with an impressive one-handed touchdown catch during receiving drills and then later hauled in another over-the-shoulder touchdown catch against Omar Bolden in 1-on-1 cornerback vs. wide receiver drills.

Caldwell stepped up on Monday, strengthening his chance of winning the No. 4 receiver gig.

Peyton Manning, offense struggle in team drills

The defense certainly won the day, as quarterback Peyton Manning struggled in team drills.

It wasn't all Manning's fault—Chris Harris Jr. did a nice job of limiting Wes Welker's effectiveness and Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas each dropped at least one pass.  But during a two minute simulation near the end of practice, Manning looked poor.

The first-team offense went four-and-out under Manning in a simulated game situation with 1:20 on the clock, with the offense down 21-20.

After Manning failed to generate a first down, Osweiler led the second-team offense down the field under the same situation and kicker Matt Prater booted a 52-yard field goal for what would have been a go-ahead-score.  Up next was Zac Dysert with the third-team offense, moving the team down the field for another Prater field goal.

After the two minute drills, each of the three above mentioned quarterbacks got a shot at a Hail Marry simulation.  Each quarterback failed, as the defense stiffened yet again.

On the first depth chart

The Broncos released their first depth chart of 2013 on Sunday, but as Fox hinted after practice, depth charts released in August mean little.

"We released a depth chart only because the league makes us," said Fox.

Case in point:  Julius Thomas is technically the third tight end on the depth chart, but has been running extensively with the first-team offense while Dreessen and Tamme recover. Additionally, Wes Welker is listed as the team's No. 2 punt returner, but Tony Carter and Eric Decker handled relief duties behind Trindon Holliday on Monday—Welker never even caught a punt.

Those are but a few examples of depth chart oddities, but the premature chart isn't completely meaningless.  Among other purposes, it can also help provide motivation for players.

“Everything’s a motivation, because we all want to be the starter," said rookie running back Montee Ball.  "Right now they have me listed as No. 2, and I’m most definitely going to shoot for first string."

Fox noted that the running backs—Ball included—will ultimately decide their final place on the depth chart based on their performance in the preseason.

Miscellaneous notes: Lilja snapped to Manning during pre-practice drills, but Ramirez handled all of the first-team reps during team drills... Trindon Holliday has made a few nice plays as a receiver in camp—the Broncos may be planning to get him involved a little bit on offense this season... Demaryius Thomas is without a doubt on the verge of a big year—he's gotten the best of Champ Bailey several times in camp... Peyton Manning's touch is truly amazing to watch.  Numerous times on Monday Manning threw passes well before the receiver made his break and each pass ended up in the perfect place at the perfect time.

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