I know the Broncos are on the heels of their run to the Super Bowl and yes, I'm very aware that Peyton Manning is still on the roster. But I guess I kind of forgot over the offseason just how good this team is. Then I looked at the roster and was quickly reminded.
Paper is one thing and product is another. But by first roster glance, this Broncos team is better than the one that went to the Big Game last year. A lot better. But again, that's just on paper.
So after two days of Training Camp I've made a few simple observations of what I've seen on the field. There is still a long way to go and lots of time to improve, but this is what I'm seeing so far:
FUN DEFENSE - The defense is having a lot of fun together. Lots of cheering when someone makes a play. Some jeering towards the offense. And a whole lot of smiles. All great signs that they are building quick chemistry on that side of the ball. This could be the Broncos best defense since their Super Bowl winning seasons. The defensive sideline went nuts on Friday when big defensive tackle Sylvester Williams picked off Peyton Manning and then tried to lateral the ball to a teammate. It was fumbled only to be recovered by Sly moments later. David Bruton also provided lots of smiles when he intercepted a Brock Osweiler pass and returned it for a score. Bruton did a front flip over the goal line much to the enjoyment of his teammates in the secondary.
DYNAMIC DUO? - If you thought Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller were a great combo, wait until you set your eyes on Von and Demarcus Ware. Neither has done anything spectacular or jaw dropping in Camp just yet, but if you look a little deeper you will see what is going to make these two great together. On Friday we saw Ware and Von off to the side chatting about simple technique. Ware was giving Miller pointers on how to use his hands in the pass rush. Sharing knowledge between two great pass rushers. An observation as simple as that one is great enough to make opposing quarterbacks tremble behind center. So forget "Von-Doom" already and start looking forward to "Von DeWare" ... Or something like that.
GO LONG! - The only thing we really knew about Cody Latimer when the Broncos drafted him is that he is fast. The kid ran a 4.39 40 on a broken foot at the NFL Combine. That was all he was able to do though because of that foot. But it is healed up now and he's a full participant at Camp. An already he has established himself as a deep threat having burned the Broncos secondary for wide open catches deep down field. So, Mr. Manning... I hope you enjoy your newest toy this season.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT - I think we would all agree that the gap between Peyton Manning and any other quarterback on the roster is larger than the Grand Canyon. If Manning goes down this year I am optimistic that the rest of the team could carry the Broncos to some wins. But it won't be because of Brock Osweiler. Not yet, at least. The kid has the tools to be a starter in the NFL but he hasn't polished them just yet. I have actually been impressed with his deep ball over the past two days. Nice touch and on target. But that all seems to vanish on anything inside 10 yards. His release still seems a bit awkward with the ball coming out at a downward angle. That must be tough for receivers to make a smooth catch. Maybe I'm missing something, but I'm certainly not sold yet that Brock Osweiler is the quarterback of the future for the Denver Broncos. On the flipside, Zach Dysert continues to impress. I think he has a solid future in the NFL. At this point, if Manning were not available for whatever reason, I would feel more comfortable with Dysert running the offense than Osweiler.
WHO IS IT GOING TO BE? - I still have not seen anything that would lead me to believe the Broncos have a front runner to take over for Knowshon Moreno at running back. Montee Ball is going to get the first crack at it but both he and Ronnie Hillman have been getting time with the first team at practice. Neither have done anything impressive in my eyes yet but there is still plenty of time to become the new backfield leader. CJ Anderson will also get his opportunity to shine, and I believe rookie free agent Kapri Bibbs will make the roster (likely the practice squad) come preseasons end.
LAST CHANCE IN DENVER - I think this is the year for former Air Force Falcon Ben Garland to make the final 53-man roster. With no practice squad eligibility remaining he must make that roster or the Broncos will be forced to cut him. So far at camp Garland has been getting a lot of time at Guard with Osweiler at QB. He is doing well enough that he is going to make it hard on the Broncos coaches to let him go. I think he makes the team this year.
More Training Camp observations will be posted in the days and weeks to come.