Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Denver Broncos Training Camp Report: Day 16

I've been all over the place since last Friday, so I apologize for the lack of updates. There's not a ton to report from Day 15 or Day 16 for the matter, but I will give tidbits on what should be noted.

I may have jinxed Lamont Reid yesterday, as Denver waived the corner back last night. Reid was waived to make room for Wale Dada, that'll be a fun name to say if he can make an impact. Dada has yet to play a game in the NFL, but spent the second half of last season on the Seattle Seahawks practice squad.

Out of pads today: Hamza Abdullah, Champ Bailey, Louis Green, Boss Bailey, Peyton Hillis, Tom Nalen, Erik Pears and Ryan Torain. It should be noted that while Hillis was listed as out, he did in fact participate in practice at fullback. Noticeably absent from the out of pads list is tight end Chad Mustard, who returned yesterday to practice.

Here are my unsolicited best guesses for winners of position battles at this point:

Fullback: Cecil Sapp will likely walk away with this one. Running back Michael Pittman could have been a dark horse candidate had rookie Ryan Torain not gotten hurt early in training camp. Peyton Hillis, who is the best receiving back Denver has, simply cannot get on the practice field. Without being able to practice, young Hillis will not be able to pass anyone on the depth chart.

Second-string Quarterback: Patrick Ramsey will remain the second-string quarterback going into the season. However, if there ever were a need for a second-string quarterback in the regular season lasting longer than a game Darrell Hackney would get the start. Let us just hope with the open roster spot created with Jason Elam's exodus to mecca (Atlanta) and Matt Prater having the incredible ability as a kicker to both kick-off, attempt extra points and kick field goals, that the open roster spot created goes to a third quarterback.

2nd Tight End: Fan favorite Tony Scheffler does not appear to have this position locked down by any means, the Broncos resigned ("Nasty") Nate Jackson which means that they're going to want a return on their investment. Both tight ends have injury issues, neither one has ever made it through an entire season. Scheffler is great once he gets the ball, Jackson is great at getting the ball. In training camp both tight ends have seen time split out, neither end is known for his abilitiy to block, at the same time neither of them have any problem with blocking. My best guess at this point is that Nate Jackson will see more time on the field, but Tony Scheffler will get the ball more often.

Center: If Tom Nalen's healthy, there is no discussion, he will start. If there is any doubt in his head that he's not healthy I would think that he will retire. Leaving Denver with a very experienced Casey Wiegmann, who has not disappointed yet either in training camp or preseason play. In the very unfortunate event the Tom Nalen does retire, PJ Alexander, who can play any position on the offensive line would back up Wiegmann.

Right Guard: It is not out of the ordinary for Chris Kuper to be listed as the number one right guard in preseason, he was last year as well. Last season Montrae Holland ended up beating him out for the start and started every game in 2007. I don't expect there to be any different this season. Chris Kuper will be a back up, the right tackle position will be discussed a paragraph down.

Right Tackle: The message boards are full of chatter of Chris Kuper moving over from right guard, making room for Montrae Holland and starting in the right tackle position. If Chris Kuper were the number one option at right tackle, he would have been playing right tackle all along and someone would have been filling in at right guard. Mike Shanahan named Ryan Harris the starting left guard in Denver way back in January or February. When Denver drafted Ryan Clady at left tackle the obvious move was to put Ryan Harris at right tackle. Right tackle is in many informed and expert opinions the easiest position on the line, as it is generally the side that also features the blocking tight end. Meaning the right tackle and tight end double-team who ever happens to be the opposing left defensive end. When you read about Ryan Harris being "blown up," in camp, this was happening in the first couple of days of camp during one-on-ones. With last season's starting right tackle Erik Pears, out for a bit this week with a soar back and dedicated to second-team left tackle I don't see Pears passing Harris on the depth chart either.

Running Back: Though I've felt that I've called this one ad nauseum, but Andre Hall will start, Selvin Young is the spell back. It's not going to happen just yet, it'll happen shortly after the Dallas game. However, clever Mike Shanahan may wait until just before the Oakland game to announce it. Leaving Oakland Raider coaches scrambling for film. We got a glimpse of Selvin Young early last season and he was exciting, but he sputtered out at the end of the season, why does no one remember that? He wasn't incredibly exciting going up against the number one defense last weekend in Houston either, he had one exciting run that pushed him into the positive yardage column though. The blueprint is being formed right now in Denver, running by committee is the future. Though we're not likely to see Bo Jackson/Marcus Allen production any time soon, but gone soon will be the days where one back carries thirty times per game. Rookie Anthony Aldridge will see carries here and there, as will Michael Pittman, when Ryan Torain is healthy again, expect him to get more than a few serious looks. I'm anti-rookie hype, especially when it comes to running backs, but Ryan Torain could be a huge threat, no team will have been able to scout him and he comes during a time when there are going to most likely be injuries to starters.

Wide Receiver (Y spot/2nd Receiver): Rookie Eddie Royal is the talk of the town, as he will probably start alongside Brandon Marshall when Denver plays the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday. However, he's just keeping the chair warm. When the season begins, Darrell Jackson will be the number one receiver and Eddie Royal will remain at number two. Week three versus the New Orleans Saints, Brandon Marshall and Darrell Jackson will start with Brandon Stokley in the slot, Eddie Royal will still see plenty of time and opportunities, but Darrell Jackson is the Broncos man. Incredible depth at wide receiver for Denver, Keary Colbert will likely take the sixth spot on the depth chart. My dark horse candidate at wide receiver is Clifford Russell, did you see his tackle at Houston? Russell narrowly missed an over thrown Darrell Hackney pass that would have made Denver fans see what I've been talking about over the last two weeks. He can make the team based off of his special teams contributions and provides good depth at kick returner and punt returner.

Defensive Line: I don't see anything changing here, Denver's first-team did decent, Jarvis Moss will not be an every down defensive end, at least to start the season off, John Engelberger is too much of a warrior. The Josh Mallard that I've crowned messiah did not do me any favors in Vegas last weekend, but you will see him a lot this season. Marcus Thomas is not disappointing and will do well, once DeWayne Robertson is taking on double teams next to him at defensive tackle. I want to see Tim Crowder do as well as he did at the beginning half of last season, but I want to see him do it the whole season. His spot on the depth chart is proof enough that Denver's not happy with what he's shown so far. The blitzing package that Denver occasionally sets up with in training camp is pretty fierce though: Jarvis Moss, Josh Mallard, Ebenezer Ekuban and Elvis Dumervil, that's overwhelming... If those men get organized, look out.

Middle Linebacker: Niko Koutouvides will get the start against Dallas, if my assumptions are correct and fans will call for Nate Webster. Good depth and intense battle, but Denver just doesn't want to see the money spent on Koutouvides go to waste, they want him to be the number one. However, that number one will be Nate Webster. For one reason, where Koutouvides overshadows Webster the most is in coverage, but Denver's not a team that often has a middle linebacker in coverage. In the nickel package, Denver doesn't even have a middle linebacker on the field. Boss Bailey is incredible in pass coverage and DJ Williams isn't to shabby either. If those two are in coverage, you'll want Nate Webster manning the middle, not Niko Koutouvides. Koutouvides is a special teams ace though and coupled with Jordan Beck, if he can somehow manage a roster spot and the youngster Wesley Woodyard, Denver should improve drastically at kickoff coverage.

Cornerback: Domonique Foxworth vs. Dre Bly, going with Dre Bly on this one. This could mean that Denver loses Domonique Foxworth next off-season. I, as many Denver fans, hope not, but I can't imagine him wanting to spend another season here next year as the nickel back. Foxworth believes that there are thirty-two teams that he's capable of starting for in this league and that is true, but he's not beating out Dre Bly, who is in the top five of current NFL corners for interceptions, this year.

Free Safety: Hamza Abdullah is giving his all to returning to practice, but it might be too little too late. Marquand Manuel is looking good filling in for the injured Abdullah. Prior to being injured Hamza Abdullah could be seen ball hawking in Denver's secondary, but in Marquand Manuel, Denver has Dennis Smith hitting ability. I think that it may come down to what situation Denver's in defensively and we'll call this one a draw for now.

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