The Denver Broncos took the field in Dove Valley Saturday morning. Saturday would make the third day of training camp for the team, but the practice held more significance than the two prior. It was the first time that the Broncos would practice in pads. It also marked the first time the offense and defense really started playing at full speed since the loss to the Baltimore Ravens last January. The offense for Denver provided for a mixed bag Saturday.
Peyton Manning was not exempt from this description. Manning at one point went had 6 straight incompletions. He was also struggling to hit the deep ball Saturday. However, despite missing his wide receivers on a few occasions, there was good reason to be optimistic. Manning's arm looked strong. He wasn't under throwing the ball deep and they were all tight spirals. Manning was able to hit some wide outs deep by the end and he did finish up strong, going 2-3. I'm sure Manning wouldn't be satisfied with his performance, but perfectionists rarely are satisfied. As training camp continues, look for Manning to become much more crisp. One thing is for sure, physically, he's looking much better than even from last January.
Of those who were catching for Manning, the usuals in Eric Decker, Demayrius Thomas and Wes Welker really stood out. Decker might of had the most impressive day of anyone on the offensive side of the ball. He was heavily targeted and caught virtually everything thrown at him, including multiple tough catches down the middle. Thomas wasn't targeted as much as Decker, but did account for one Manning's longest plays where he was able to beat one on one coverage with S David Bruton to score. Welker did not disappoint at all either. He was dominant in the slot and that was no slight on CB Chris Harris, who covered him well. Welker just found a way to get open enough to catch the ball every time. The biggest catch of the day for Welker was a deep comeback route where he bailed out Manning on a poorly thrown ball by diving making a circus catch between his knees near the right sideline. The crowd would erupt shortly after for one of many times.
There were a few other shining moments for the offense Saturday. The offensive line was able to make some big holes. Ronnie Hillman took advantage of a few of those holes and broke them for some big gains twice. He also had a fumble. Another bright spot at times was rookie WR Tavarres King. The rookie out of Georgia was a favorite target of QB Brock Osweiler, going for multiple big plays including a deep ball for a TD. He also had some rookie moments with a few drops. The same could be said for WRs Gerell Robinson and Greg Orton. It also interesting to note the WR Andre "Bubba" Caldwell made some noise a few times, including some reps with the Manning. There are about six wide outs trying to make the team for one to two spots. These wide outs are going to have to shine and limit the mistakes if they hope to get a roster spot.
For the defense, determining their performance wasn't quite as easy. To begin practice, the defense wasn't exactly going full speed. However, starting about midway through the practice, the Broncos pass rush was eating alive the offensive line. Manning, Osweiler and rookie QB Zac Dysert were all on the run from the D at some point. Of those who did stick out, S Rahim Moore might be the biggest. Moore had a lovely diving interception against QB Brock Osweiler. Immediately after that, Moore would turn the crowd and start to pump up the crowd. It was possibly the loudest the crowd was all day. Moore nearly had a second pick of the day, but wasn't able to come down with the ball. Despite being beat by WR Demayrius Thomas for a score, S David Bruton was able to make some noise one play. In what may have been the hardest hit of the day, Bruton rocked RB Ronnie Hillman and helped jar the ball lose for a fumble. Lastly, Robert Ayers almost picked off Manning. Manning tried dropping a ball in a tight spot and Ayers jumped to get his fingertips on the ball, but couldn't come down with the ball.
Overall, the Broncos could have performed much better. Both sides of the ball looked lost out there at times and it was somewhat sloppy. However, there shouldn't be much reason for concern. Although training camp technically started Thursday for the Broncos, real football training camp officially started Saturday when the pads went on. The Broncos will get better.
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