The ‘Boys were back in town Wednesday afternoon, and their offseason media circus came with them. There were easily double the reporters and photographers on the sidelines, many of which were from the HBO training camp documentary: Hard Knocks. Recently-retired Rod Smith even showed up to take in the action from the sidelines. Still, with all that attention focusing on the fields, the players went out and put together a productive and exciting practice.
The teams started out with their regular routines, Cowboys on one field and Broncos on the other — stretching, warming up and working on individual drills. Then the Broncos offense went to one field and the defense to the other, and the fun really started.
ATTENDANCE REPORT: Hamza Abdullah was back in pads this morning…Boss and Champ Bailey were out of pads with a right ankle and right hamstring, respectively…Louis Green was out of pads with a concussion/neck injury…Tom Nalen remained out of pads with a left knee…Erik Pears was out of pads with a sore back…Ryan Torain watched from a chair on the far sideline recovering from surgery on his left elbow.
POSTURING FOR POSITION: Niko Koutouvides took his reps with the first unit linebackers during practice, with Jamie Winborn and D.J. Williams on either side…The second unit linebackers consisted of Jordan Beck, Nate Webster and Wesley Woodyard…Abdullah, in his first day back at practice since Aug. 1, ran with the second team safeties beside Roderick Rogers.
MATCHUPS: Each field had a different set of drills, so we, the bloggers, decided to combine “Focal Points” and “Key Plays” into one category. So here is the breakdown of how each competition went down.
Broncos Offense vs. Cowboys Defense: On the field closest to the Broncos facilities, the Denver offense took on the Dallas defense. On one half of the field, the teams did run-oriented 9-on-7 drills while the other half focused on one-on-one battles between wide receivers and DBs.
- The Dallas D-linemen are some big guys. But that didn’t stop the Denver running backs from having success. Selvin Young took one outside run for a solid eight yards before being pushed out of bounds.
- Anthony Alridge had one big run to the outside where linebacker Bradie James pushed him out of bounds, and they both went tumbling to the ground. The problem? They went tumbling into a young ball boy holding the yardage markers. No worries, however, as the boy jumped up quickly with a smile on his face.
- Andre Hall in particular performed well against the Cowboys in the 9-on-7 drills. He took a number of handoffs around the right end, moving well down field before being pushed out of bounds or tackled. He also rushed up the middle a couple of times for what would have been decent gains. It seems every time he touched the ball, he would always get at least five or six yards before ever being touched.
- The Denver receivers got the best of the Dallas DBs for the most part during the one-on-ones. Jay Cutler twice hit Brandon Marshall, with cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones in coverage. One was on a comeback route where Marshall cut back and inside too quickly for Jones to adjust. The next was a high-sailing deep ball into the corner of the endzone where Marshall beat Jones and made the grab.
- Cutler also launched a bullet to Samie Parker on a quick inside route in front of rookie cornerback Orlando Scandrick. Parker made a nice adjustment and reached back to haul in the pass.
After a brief special teams period, the focus shifted to pass-oriented 7-on-7 drills, with Cutler and company coming out on top.
- Cutler-to-Marshall continued to be a deadly combination as they connected a number of times in front, over top of or past Dallas defenders. The only miscue in this matchup came when Marshall beat the double coverage of Anthony Henry and Ken Hamlin only to have Cutler overthrow him. The duo got back into rhythm on the next play though, with Marshall again beating Jones on an out route.
- Peyton Hillis continued to get into the action, snaring a couple passes out of the backfield from both Cutler and Patrick Ramsey. Ramsey connected with him on one pass to the flats, and Hillis stopped and juked both Jones and Bobby Carpenter, cutting back inside for a solid gain.
- Ramsey connected on a deep ball to Clifford Russell who made a diving catch past a couple Dallas defenders, drawing a loud “Ooooh!” from the rest of the Denver offense.
- Ramsey also hooked up with Keary Colbert in between two DBs, with Colbert acrobatically reaching up and back behind him to haul in the pass. Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison shouted, “Nice, Keary!” a few times after the play.
Finally the 11-on-11 period came, and the entire Denver starting offense took on the Dallas starting defense.
- Earlier in the practice, the Denver offensive linemen went up against the Dallas D-line. I didn’t get a chance to get much of a look at that. So I made sure to pay attention to how the lineup of Clady, Kuper, Wiegmann, Hamilton and Harris did against the 3-4 of Dallas. Only one play resulted in a would-be sack of Cutler, and that came on a double linebacker blitz. Clady in particular did a good job of holding up against defensive end Chris Canty. He also picked up a blitz by James. Overall, the line protected Cutler well.
- Cutler continued to look sharp, hitting both Marshall and Eddie Royal several times. Cutler connected with Royal on a high outside pass in front of Jones.
- The Dallas defense never scored an interception, but they did get their hands on a few balls. Ramsey tossed one out to Tony Scheffler in the flats, but Bobby Carpenter got there first to bat it down. A few plays prior, Carpenter and DE Jason Hatcher burst through the line to take down Young in the backfield. LBs Darrell Robertson and Tyson Smith also busted up a play, this one against the second-team offensive line, stopping Michael Pittman’s run in the backfield.
Broncos Defense vs. Cowboys Offense: The first group drill with the Broncos defense was a 9 on 7 — the D-line, linebackers and two safeties against the offensive line, a quarterback and running back. The first three plays were stopped at the line of scrimmage — Jamie Winborn broke into the backfield on the first two plays and wrapped up Dallas’ Marion Barber in the backfield along with Elvis Dumervil and Marcus Thomas on the respective plays. On the third play, John Engelberger powered past his blocker and made the stop on rookie Felix Jones.
- In defensive line vs. offensive line one-on-ones, Dewayne Robertson looked to be unstoppable. Whether it was one-on-ones or two-on-twos, the 6-foot-1, 308-pound defensive tackle consistently bullied his way to the quarterback.
- During 7-on-7s, designed to give the quarterback time — there’s no defensive rush — the Broncos D managed to get a couple plays in anyway. Jack Williams smacked a quick pass to the ground, reaching around his wide receiver, and on the very next play Domonique Foxworth sprinted up to a ball and tapped the reception harmlessly to the ground. Toward the end of the drill, Dre’ Bly got his hand on a pass, tipped it around and nearly came up with the interception on the way to the ground. He got up and clapped his hands in disappointment, but the rest of the DBs cheered his effort.
- During those 7-on-7s, Terrell Owens did have a few big catches — including one double move where he stopped then sprinted toward the endzone for a long completion — and Tony Romo made smart decisions. The Cowboys looked like a confident NFC contender, and made several quick completions in front of the defense.
- 11-on-11s were the most intriguing to watch. Some even quicker hits from the full team drill: Early on, Winborn — who had a good-looking practice — almost came up with an interception in stride running toward the line but it slipped through his hands…D.J. Williams came around the line on a blitz and tackled Barber in the backfield — I say “tackled” loosely, it was a quick wrap-up to show he would have made the play. No actual tackling was allowed…Paul Carrington burst through the line for what would have been a sack on Brad Johnson…Dallas rookie tight end Martellus Bennett made a catch from Romo and turned the corner just as Marlon McCree was sprinting up for what would have been a bone-crunching hit had it been during live action.
- In his first practice as a Bronco, cornerback Tyrone Poole almost came up with an interception during 11-on-11s, but bobbled it running out of bounds.
Special Teams: In the brief special teams period, Matt Prater kicked several field goals against the Dallas defense, knocking all but one through the uprights. Brett Kern and Sam Paulescu each kicked six punts, alternating after each three. Jones, Patrick Crayton and rookie Danny Amendola took turns returning.
- Tight end and long snapper Mike Leach ran down the field after a punt and collapsed in on the Cowboys returner as the play was blown dead. Jogging back to the huddle past some of the media, he proudly reported: “I just tackled Pacman Jones right there.”
QUOTABLE: “That’s fine — we go against Champ every day.”
-Jay Cutler, responding to Adam Jones’ statement that Brandon Marshall is “nowhere near” Terrell Owens.
The teams are back on the field at 4:10 this afternoon. Stick with this blog for more updates.
Click here for the photo gallery from this morning’s practice.
-Gray Caldwell and Adam Zinser, DenverBroncos.com
Tags: Adam Zinser, Andre Hall, Anthony Alridge, Brandon Marshall, D.J. Williams, Dewayne Robertson, Domonique Foxworth, Dre Bly, Eddie Royal, Gray Caldwell, Hamza Abdullah, Jack Williams, Jamie Winborn, Jay Cutler, John Engelberger, Keary Colbert, Mike Leach, Patrick Ramsey, Peyton Hillis, Rod Smith, Ryan Clady, Training Camp, Tyrone Poole