A training camp record crowd of 7,085 was on hand yesterday for the shortest practice session thus far in 2017. The weather was partly sunny and warm.
On a personal preference note, this was one of the least enjoyable Broncos training camp sessions that I have ever attended. There were too many impatient and inconsiderate fans at camp moving about during the session. I wish the Broncos would return to holding the summer scrimmage at Defunct Corporate Sponsor Field at Mile High.
Quarterback Watch 2017
Concerning the quarterback competition, at minicamp in June, Broncos’ head coach, Vance Joseph said, “When I see a clear separation, I’ll call it off.” Following my observation of Saturday’s practice, Trevor Siemian appears to be separating himself from Paxton Lynch. Barring significant improvement this week from Lynch and a superb showing in Denver’s preseason game against the Bears on Thursday, I surmise that Siemian will be the Broncos’ starting quarterback.
Lynch continues to hold onto the ball for too long and is very inconsistent and erratic in his ball placement. Lynch also does not seem any more comfortable lined up under center this season compared to last. At this point, I think that the coaching staff and players trust Siemian more.
While one may question Siemian’s fashion sense, his sense and judgment at the quarterback position, at least for now, is far superior to Lynch’s. Lynch’s first pass attempt on Saturday was an extremely high overthrow on a crossing route. Siemian’s first throw on Saturday, was a beautiful pass down the sideline to Virgil Green, in which Siemian delicately placed the ball between two defenders.
Siemian’s subsequent throws were as follows: he missed a wide open Isaiah McKenzie in the middle of the field by overthrowing a curl route to the outside of Jordan Taylor; a perfect out route to Marlon Brown to Siemian’s left; a miscommunication with Emmanuel Sanders, where Sanders came back, and Siemian threw the ball deep on a fade route; a perfect throw to Bennie Fowler on a slant in very tight coverage and under a heavy pass rush. The completion to Fowler would have gone for a touchdown in a game. Siemian’s final pass was a completion to a wide-open Isaiah McKenzie on button hook route.
Lynch’s additional pass attempts were an overthrow on a simple out route to Jeff Heuerman; an interception to Chris Harris that may have gone to the house under game conditions; an underthrow to A.J. Derby that allowed a defender to come from the middle of the field to knock away the pass; a throw over the middle of the field on a crossing route that was too low and fell incomplete; a well-placed pass to Kalif Raymond to Lynch’s right on a play-action power run; and a well-thrown completion to Taylor on a 20-yard out route.
Kyle Sloter had a solid practice. Sloter’s following throws were a perfectly placed ball to Hunter Sharp on a slant route under tight coverage; a strike to Andy Janovich on a leak option route; another perfectly placed ball to Steven Scheu on an route which was dropped; a throw behind Sharp; a mistimed throw on a crossing route to Scheu; a beautiful completion to Anthony Nash on a high-low crossing route, where Nash, fifteen yards down the field, mirrored Carlos Henderson’s same route; a play-action completion to Raymond on a slant; a perfect throw down the sideline of the end zone that was dropped by Nash (pass interference was called on the play); and a touchdown pass to Carlos Henderson in the back of the end zone on a crossing route that was negated by a facemask penalty on the offensive line. The drop by Nash in the end zone was the same route as a stellar Eric Decker one-handed touchdown reception against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 17 of the 2012 season.
The quarterbacks worked on running back arrow, chair, and flat routes in the red zone at the beginning of practice. These routes were prevalent in the Broncos’ 2009 through 2014 offenses. Some examples of these routes resulting in touchdowns are found in the following video clips from 2009, 2010 and 2013.
Offensive Line Observations
I will need to make a Costco run to stock up on an economy size container of crow, because Garrett Bolles is doing everything in his power through training camp to prove me wrong. Bolles has firmly driven a stake into the ground to be the Week 1 starter at the left tackle position. Yesterday, Bolles stonewalled Vontarrius Dora and played excellent technique in containing DeMarcus Walker. Bolles also showed a nasty disposition in the running game, and he showed his capacity to get to the second level on run blocking in a hurry. I think Bolles will be excellent getting out in front on screen pass plays.
Donald Stephenson left much to be desired yesterday. Stephenson was obliterated off the edge by Kasim Edebali on two plays. One of the pressures resulted in the aforementioned Harris interception. Long after the whistle had been blown on a different play, Stephenson lunged at Adam Gotsis’s legs from Gotsis’s blindside. Needless to say, Stephenson’s decision was completely unnecessary and absolutely asinine, especially when such conduct is directed at a teammate who is attempting to recover from injuries to that region of his body. Vance Joseph witnessed the cheapshot and lit Stephenson up accordingly.
Ty Sambrailo gave up pressure to Von Miller and Chris Harris on a delayed overload blitz, but culpability for that protection mistake may fall on the entire right side of the offensive line.
The Broncos continued deploy a lot of power-pull looks, as well as angle and gap blocks in the run game. The Broncos did work in a couple of outside zone running plays, but unfortunately, on both occasions, my view was obstructed by fans walking about.
The Broncos’ offensive line appears to be much more physical at the point of attack this year. Their ability to drive and not get blown off the ball appears to be markedly improved. Preseason games will help give a better indication as to whether this is fool’s gold or sustainable change.
The offensive line was flagged for facemask and false start penalties. As previously mentioned, the facemask penalty nullified a touchdown.
Special Teams Observations
The Broncos worked quite a bit on kickoff and punt returns yesterday. Overall, the work was clean and well-executed. Isaiah McKenzie has solidified himself as the first-team punt returner. McKenzie fielded all of his punts cleanly on the day, while having to look directly into the sun on two of them. McKenzie is slippery and definitely has the jets.
Kalif Raymond fundamentally fielded punts sent his way. Again, I hope Raymond can find his way on the Broncos’ practice squad this season. From all reports, he is an extremely hard worker. I also heard on the radio yesterday that despite Raymond’s diminutive size, he excelled as a wrestler in high school.
Brendan Langley looks like a good option as a backup returner on both kickoffs and punts. Langley looked very fluid on the kickoff he returned, and cleanly fielded the punts that came his way. Cody Latimer was decisive in finding a crease on the first kickoff of yesterday’s practice.
Danny Mason recovered an onside kick for the receiving team. Brandon McManus missed a 55-yard field goal attempt when the ball struck the upper part of the left goalpost and bounced out.
The special teams unit looks very well coached. The unit appears to be focusing on decisiveness and being savvy.
The No Fly Zone had a great day. Von Miller and Kasim Edebali also provided plenty of pressure. Corey Nelson was the next man up in Todd Davis’s absence. Justin Simmons and Bradley Roby played plenty, while the starting 3-4 base defensive linemen were Derek Wolfe, Domata Peko and Jared Crick. Adam Gotsis batted down a pass, and rookie, Tyrique Jarrett showed superb stoutness at the point of attack when he stopped a 1st-and-goal inside run play for no gain.
DeMarcus Walker looked comfortable at outside linebacker, where he worked most of yesterday’s practice. On Thursday of last week, Vance Joseph mentioned that when the Broncos drafted Walker, they did so with the intention of lining him up along the defensive line and at outside linebacker. Walker is in a perfect situation to learn the outside linebacker position.
One can definitely see Carlos Henderson’s straight line speed when he turns up field and gets moving north and south. . . . The tight ends worked plenty on option routes on Saturday—a Mike McCoy offensive staple. . . . The Broncos lined up plenty in five wide looks, including a bunch formation on the strong side, with Isaiah McKenzie in the slot, flanked by Bennie Fowler to the outside and A.J. Derby to the inside. . . . The middle of the field will be used frequently by wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs in Denver’s passing attack. . . . Stevan Ridley looked much more decisive and quick through the hole on running plays following a week’s worth of work in the offense. Ridley is one player that I will have my eye on against Chicago to see if he is more than a training camp body. . . De’Angelo Henderson continues to be a bright spot in training camp. He makes perfectly timed cuts and appears to have really put in the time and effort to master the playbook. . . . Through nine days of training camp, it appears that the Broncos will again be a team that is led by their defense. My hope is that an improved return game and running game, along with some easier completions in the passing game, will compliment the defense. Some offensive relief to alleviate the inordinate pressure the defense has undergone to play perfectly almost every week for two seasons now would be most welcomed.