Training camp couldn’t seem much further away right now as I sit here at a table in a hotel room hard by San Francisco International Airport and a long Jay Cutler pass from the western shore of San Francisco Bay. For one thing, it was 68 degrees when our plane landed — at 5:20 in the afternoon, with three hours of daylight still left. The dry heat in which the Broncos practiced throughout the last two weeks is just a memory, although after Monday night’s game it will be replaced by the stew-thick humidity-abetted heat of north Texas.
But before we move on to game day, some final thoughts on the stars of the camp that was:
RB Travis Henry: General Manager Ted Sundquist said upon signing him that he was brought in to bring “authority” to the Broncos’ running game. He showed that daily.
QB Patrick Ramsey: Seemed to grow very comfortable in the offense as camp progressed, and his arm strength reminds you why he was a first-round pick in 2002.
CB Dre’ Bly: Hard to believe a few people at training camp booed him. You know who you are. Shame on you. I’m not fundamentally opposed to booing; sometimes it’s a necessary fan expression, and I’ve booed at least a few times in my life, usually at umpires with inconsistent strike zones. But this was practice, for God’s sake. Besides, Bly led the Broncos in takeaways, with more than twice as many as anyone else on the defense. Monday, we’ll start finding out just how often opponents try to challenge him with Bly on the other side. Last Dec. 31, Alex Smith went to Champ Bailey’s side — and paid a steep price when Bailey ended up with a football that deflected into his hands. Will Smith look in Bailey’s direction again, or will he go after Bly?
CB Jeff Shoate: Turned up the turnover touch in the last week of the camp and showed no timidity, often giving no cushion to opposing wide receivers. Shoate credited his aggression in coverage to the fact that he was fully healthy for the first time as a pro, with the knee problems that beset him the last two years just an unpleasant memory.
WRs Brandon Stokley, Domenik Hixon and Brian Clark: With Javon Walker, you expect big things, and he delivered, looking like his 2004, pre-knee injury self. Hixon, Stokley and Clark kept getting open and kept making the grabs, although Stokley was shelved by thigh problems the last few days of camp. Hixon showed a fearless streak, and was more than willing to go across the middle whenever asked — especially on the full-pad days. His next-day return from a first-degree shoulder separation also impressed coaches and onlookers alike.
… and other notable standouts to these eyes …
DE Elvis Dumervil: He’s added some straight-on bull rush to his already outstanding skills coming off the edge. Even though he was on the third team in the base package throughout training camp, he was on the first unit in long-yardage situations, and seems poised to at least provide an adrenaline and speed boost to the pass rush once again this year.
DE Jarvis Moss: Like Dumervil, the most promising sign for Moss was his willingness to work on his power pass-rushing techniques that will make him a complete defensive end in the long term.
RB Andre Hall: Like Henry, he ran with authority, and found success in goal-line work. He also secured the football well, although a right hamstring injury at the close of camp put a damper on his efforts.
CB Domonique Foxworth: I wonder if I should start referring to him by “CB/S” or “DB,” given his work at safety, particularly in the last few days. He might not be in the first-team base starting 11, but stands to play a starter’s minutes at nickelback and first fill-in at all secondary spots.
G Montrae Holland: I’m really looking forward to watching him Monday night. Remember, he was a fairly quick target of the Broncos in free agency; they liked him a great deal, and you could see why at camp — he played effectively and with tenacity.
QB Darrell Hackney: There’s just something I like about the guy. Maybe it’s short man’s bias; I’m “vertically challenged” and naturally pull for someone who looks up at most of his teammates. But his arm strength and velocity was as advertised, and he showed grittiness in practicing — and hobbling on a scramble — through a leg strain.
OL Emmanuel Akah: On the field, offensive coordinator Rick Dennison gave the British import a fair amount of praise. As one would expect with someone relatively new to the sport, he’s raw, but has some talent and held his own in one-on-one duels. Injuries among fellow offensive linemen ought to give Akah more snaps on Monday night.
And of course, there was the enthusiastic — and, for spectators, frequently entertaining — coaching exhortations of assistant head coach/defense Jim Bates.
Those are just some names who jumped out to me. Who did you think stood out? Fire away, Broncos fans … I’ll be back to read your thoughts after going out for dinner. Until then, vaya con Dios.
Tags: Training Camp