The Denver Broncos just can't get a break.
Today Jarvis Moss left practice with a broken hand and is expected to miss two weeks. The Broncos former first round pick of 2007, Moss, was expected to be one of the replacements for Elvis Dumervil who went down Wednesday with an injury. Joining Moss, starting right guard Chris Kuper left with an injury, newly signed running back LenDale White also left practice early. There is no word yet on the severity of Kupers' and White's injuries.
NFL Network crew shows up for practice
An NFL Films crew came to the Broncos morning practice, setting up at the 50 yard-line to record practice. Today's session was clearly different than previous practices, as the Broncos catered to NFLN. Over the past few practices the Broncos have scrimmaged from the 25-yard lines, today though, most of the scrimmaging was done at the fifty yard line. Rookie quarterback Tim Tebow also received many more snaps than usual, and for the first time, even more plays under center than Brady Quinn. Maybe it was coincidence, but my theory is Josh McDaniels finds pleasure in stirring things up. The Head Coach is also very sneaky, yesterday the team came out early before fans arrived and even the field staff was told to leave, as the Broncos were working on something "secret." In previous practices, fans could hear Kyle Orton calling plays at the line, pointing out linebackers, and performing audibles. There was no hearing the plays today though, as the music was blasted extra loud, and at one point Josh McDaniels motioned raising his arms to a staffer to raise the volume. NFL Network certainly had an effect on the Broncos practice Friday, and will have much to dissect, although their analysis will probably be a mile off.
A little trickery
Even with NFL Films on hand, the Broncos practiced a few trick plays, including fake punts and field goals. Due to the extremely slim chance another team may see this report, I won't go into details on the formations and plays. Like yesterday, the Broncos again practiced a flea flicker today, with Quinn receiving the pitch back and throwing deep to WR Eddie Royal. The throw was drastically under thrown, and Royal broke up an interception from Sdy'Quan Thompson. The Broncos also showed some new formations on offense, among them a split back formation with Spencer Larsen and Lance Ball both in the backfield.
Tim Tebow reverts to bad throwing motion under pressure
When the Broncos' QB's starting warming up throwing to coaches at the beginning of practice, Tim Tebow looked great. His spiral was tight, and his motion looked much improved, raising his elbow higher and holding the football near his ear. Unfortunately, when thrown into the fire, Tebow went back to his old throwing ways. During offensive vs defensive scrimmages,Tebow's elbow began to lower with each pass, causing his throws to fall short and behind the receivers. Following this, Josh McDaniels pulled Tebow aside, giving him some tips. The next play Tebow's technique was vastly improved, the pass didn't have a great spin, but the ball got to the receiver, and Tebow's throwing motion looked better. McDaniels approved, "That's much better." Overall Tebow, along with all the team, had a sloppy practice. As practice went on, Tebow continued to struggle. His release was slow, and like yesterday, he took too long to make decisions. Towards the end of his turn of repetitions, Tebow saw Eddie Royal wide open over the middle running a post, perhaps excited, Tebow overthrew Royal by a few yards. There's still plenty of time for Tebow to improve under Josh and Ben McDaniels' coaching. Only Kyle Orton has received more time one-on-one time with McDaniels than Tebow, as McDaniels has made him his personal project. While he had a poor practice this morning, Tebow has had a pretty good week, and looks to improve during the evening practice today.
Wesley Woodyard, Robert Ayers, Mario Haggan shutting down the running backs
With D.J. Williams missing the past few practices, Mario Haggan has stepped into the linebacker spot light. Unofficially the new leader, Mario's actions speak louder than his words. The veteran has been making plays in 7-on-7, breaking up passes, stopping running backs in the backfield, and motivating the whole linebacking corps. Motivated by Haggan, Wesley Woodyard, and Ayers, run support seems to have improved from last season. New face Joe Mays has also aided the defense - particularly in run defense - taking great angles to prevent backs from catching the corner (meaning cutting off running backs before they can break outside into daylight down the sideline). Nose Tackle Jamal Williams is also a key part of the Broncos run defense, his big body slows down the offensive line, preventing them from getting to the linebackers, and enabling the linebackers to get through the line to stop runs before they reach the secondary.
The Broncos have nice depth at wide receiver
Behind Jabar Gaffney, Eddie Royal, and Brandon Lloyd, the Broncos have many targets that may contribute this season. Rookie Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker are joined by vet Brandon Stokley and rising training camp star Matthew Willis. All seven of the wide outs have improved each day, but Thomas's hands have become a big concern to me. A first rounder shouldn't be the one dropping the most balls of the top receivers, yet that is the case with Thomas. Youngsters Eric Decker and Eddie Royal have impressed me the most, running great routes and catching nearly everything. I don't mean to take away from Thomas, he has great ability and should make some huge plays for the Broncos this season, like he has in camp. When the first team offense was scrimmaging the second team defense, Thomas caught back-to-back skinny post routes, one of them going for a score after he left safety David Bruton gasping for air in his dust. Standing 6 foot, 3 inches Demaryius also has the height factor going for him, leaping over Alphonso Smith to catch a pass from Brady Quinn before running it in for a score during 7-on-7 drills. If he can get his hands to be consistent, Thomas could be a great one. Meanwhile there's a fierce competition between receivers Matt Willis and Brandon Stokley, the young Willis's camp performance may cause Stokley to loose his job before the start of the regular season.
LenDale White, Lance Ball Broncos' current front runners at running back
While the Broncos await for Moreo and Buckhalter to recovery from injuries, a number of backs have been getting a lot of carries. Until today, Bruce Hall had been getting the most carries, with Lance Ball (in my opinion), showing the best results from carries. Today was different, Hall fumbled, something McDaniels does not tolerate. Last season against the Redskins, Correll Buckhalter bounced a run to the outside, gained fourteen yards and then fumbled the football - he was taken out and returned only for a few plays throughout the game. In week one of last year, Peyton Hillis fumbled a kick return, he went on to start zero games in 2009 and was traded this off-season. A few practices ago, Kolby Smith fumbled, and was released the next day. Neadless to say, the fumbles were not the only causes for McDaniels harsh decisions, other occurrences happened leading up to the players' mentioned above being removed from the starting line-up. Bruce Hall ran a lap after his fumble in practice, and awaits to see if his fate is similar to those who were in his same situation. With Hall not getting as many carries as usual, Lance Ball received the most. Undrafted rookie Tony Baker also received more carries, like Ball, he had his highs, which in both cases weren't really anything fancy. Former Titan LenDale White stole the show. With the offensive line opening up great rushing lanes, White displayed surprising speed bursting through the holes igniting cheers from the fans in attendance. Adding to his style, White ran with power, embarrassing the defense at times by running right over them. The Broncos rushing attack isn't pretty without Moreno or Bucky, but the backs filling in are putting on a decent show featuring competition.
The Broncos have an evening practice tonight, stick around for a report on that session along with video highlights of today's practices. You can view photos from the Broncos Training Camp on our facebook page!