There was a little bit of a different feeling when the team headed out to practice Monday morning, thanks to Peyton Hillis. But more on that near the end of this blog in the “Daily Jukebox.”
For now, check out some quick hits from the approximately two-hour practice.
ROLL CALL: Vernon Fox was on the field today, back in his defensive blue jersey — no longer the orange jersey he sported yesterday, signifying he was recovering from an injury.
Nick Greisen was carted off the field during practice, but walked through the doors leading to the training room under his own power.
Brian Dawkins, Brandon Stokley, Brandon Marshall, Wesley Woodyard, Jarvis Moss and Correll Buckhalter were among the veterans who didn’t participate in the morning session. Head Coach Josh McDaniels said that all the players that were out were coaches decisions, and some will be back on the field for the afternoon session.
POSITIONING: The base first-unit defense today looked the same — Kenny Peterson, Ronald Fields and Ryan McBean on the line, Elvis Dumervil, D.J. Williams, Andra Davis and Darrell Reid at linebacker, Champ Bailey and Andre’ Goodman at cornerback and Renaldo Hill at safety. The only difference was at the other safety position, which was manned by rookie David Bruton. Fox also spent some time with the group at safety.
When the team brought in a nickel package, the defensive lineup looked a little different. Fields and Peterson were on the line, with Reid and Dumervil at the outside linebacker spots close to the line of scrimmage. Bailey, Jack Williams and Goodman set up at cornerback and Bruton and Hill were the safeties. The two players in the inside linebacker spots were Andra Davis and Josh Barrett.
DRILLS: Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer had his unit work on making the play on kickoff and punt coverage. One returner stood in the end zone and two gunners sprinted downfield from about the 30. When the gunners neared the 10-yard line, the returner’s job was to make them miss and get upfield, while the gunners’ job was to “squeeze” in on the play, as Priefer said, and make the tackle.
Wide receivers and defensive backs lined up about 15 yards apart from each other in one drill, and the secondary’s job was to demonstrate that the tackle was made — without actually fully tackling the receiver. The focus in the drill was using the sideline, as the coaches applauded when the receivers were forced out of bounds.
During one-on-ones between the receivers and defensive backs, Kenny McKinley made a catch past a diving Alphonso Smith. Later in the drill, however, Smith came back and broke up a pass intended for Nate Swift, drawing praise from defensive backs coach Ed Donatell that Smith did a good job reading the route.
The team also worked on situational drills, with McDaniels shouting things like, “It’s the first quarter, second-and-1.” The offense and defense had to react accordingly. Jeb Putzier talked about that type of drill earlier this offseason.
“They’re putting us in tough situations where we have to think on the move, and it’s great,” he said.
PLAYMAKERS: Eddie Royal made his presence known in the morning session, making catch after catch after catch. At one point he went one-on-one with Champ Bailey in a receivers vs. defensive backs drill, coming away with a short reception. He continually showed off his moves in 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s, weaving through defenders after making the catch.
Chad Jackson had a big catch as well, running to the back corner of the end zone with Darcel McBath in tight coverage. Kyle Orton let loose a spiral and Jackson leaped to haul in the pass at its highest point and come away with a touchdown.
Peyton Hillis flashed some of his skill in the morning session, too. He twice found a hole in a drill that consisted of the offensive line, quarterback and running back against the defensive line and linebackers, breaking loose for two touchdowns. He also layed a big-time block on Bruton to free up Ryan Torain for a big gain during 11-on-11s.
The defense had its fair share of plays as well. Lee Robinson laid a big hit on Ryan Torain on the last play of drills focusing on running plays that drew “ooohs” from the crowd. Champ Bailey also demonstrated why so many quarterbacks elect to avoid his side of the field, jumping up to grab an interception that he bobbled momentarily before coming down with it in the end zone.
QUICK HITS: On one play during 11-on-11s, Marcus Thomas stepped in with the first-unit defense, standing up on the line across from Daniel Graham. When the ball was snapped, Thomas dropped back into coverage on the veteran tight end. As his teammates shouted, “Come on, Thomas!” he dove to try to break up a pass but didn’t quite get there as Graham hauled it in.
There were two close-call touchdown plays on the day, and no call was made on either. Hillis was involved in one of them — he caught a pass over his shoulder out of the backfield for what looked like a touchdown in the end zone, but the ball came loose after Spencer Larsen jarred it out from behind. The other play that could go either way came when Chris Simms found Jabar Gaffney in the back of the end zone just past Joshua Bell, but it was tough to see if he got down two feet in time. Both were impressive catches — and questionable touchdowns.
During a play during a red-zone drill, Orton rolled out to his right, bought some more time and fired a quick pass back toward the middle of the end zone to a waiting LaMont Jordan. Jordan dropped the ball, however, and laid on the ground in disappointment. He later jokingly blamed the missed opportunity on the music played during practice. To understand that a little more, read below.
DAILY JUKEBOX: The music during Monday’s morning practice only lasted through warm-ups, but even with just a few songs on the docket, it was easy to tell who selected the heavy-on-the-country playlist — Hillis. Here’s a little music courtesy of the Arkansas native.
Chuck Berry – “Johnny B. Goode”
Alabama – “High Cotton”
David Allen Coe – “You Never Even Called Me By My Name”
Hank Williams, Jr. – “A Country Boy Can Survive”
Alabama – “Song of the South”
Elvis Presley – “Jailhouse Rock”
“Not only is it unacceptable, it’s unconstitutional.”
-LaMont Jordan, on Peyton Hillis’ music selection during practice
Here are a few more pictures from practice. The team will be back on the field at 5:30 p.m. MDT for this evening’s session.
-Gray Caldwell, DenverBroncos.com
Tags: Training Camp