ENGLEWOOD, Colo.—On Wednesday morning, day 13 of Denver Broncos training camp, the fans returned to cheer on their team, after Tuesday’s practice was closed because of rain damage caused by a heavy storm. It was a special day marked by the attendance of many Broncos alumni—a special sight for the fans on hand to witness.
“It means a great deal,” Gary Kubiak said today. “I think, first off, that's a credit to Mr. Bowlen and the organization. They've always kept this a family place. If you've passed through here as a player and you're once a part of it, you're always a part of it. It has meant a lot.”
The only players who did not participate in today’s practice were Chris Harris, Jr. (hamstring) and Marvin Austin, Jr. (groin). Emmanuel Sanders returned to action, after being limited with a hamstring since last Thursday. Catching balls from Peyton Manning and doing his thing, brings a smile to the Pro Bowl receiver’s face. He even got some punt return reps in today.
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“I felt really good,” Sanders said after practice. “I felt no pain at all. I felt like I was back to myself, so [I] just have got to continuously get better.”
Many a question have been lobbed into the internet ether regarding how well the 39-year-old Manning will do in Kubiak’s version of the West Coast/zone-blocking offense, where the quarterback plays more under center and is typically more mobile outside the pocket.
How does Manning look throwing on the run, rolling outside the pocket?
“He looks like Peyton,” Sanders said. “I feel like he can make every single throw. Anything in this offense that they want him to do, I feel like he can do it and be the best at doing it.”
Manning talked about what makes the play-action and rollout such a crucial component to the Broncos new offense and how formidable of a weapon it can be on game-day.
“Certainly, what you can do with misdirection, which we do a great job of here—Coach Kubiak and [Offensive Coordinator] Coach [Rick] Dennison do a great job of misdirection when you can get running backs flowing one way and the line flowing one way and you’re coming out the other,” Manning said. “You have some room and you have receivers. It allows you to hit guys on the run…It’s an opportunity to take some shots down the field, which certainly shortens drives.”
It wasn’t all good for Manning, as new Broncos safety Darian Stewart picked him off on a goal-to-go 11-on-11 period, returning it 95 yards for a pick-six. Such are the vagaries of training camp life. Danny Trevathan also had a pick-six, with his coming at the expense of Zac Dysert.
Trevathan and Brandon Marshall both received reps with the first-team defense and are continuing to progress in their return from offseason surgery. Tuesday, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips talked about his inside linebacker duo's journey back into the starting lineup.
“They look better and better each day,” Phillips said. “I’m pleased with that. When you have both guys that led the team in tackles, it’s nice to have them back. But they’re not there physically yet. They need to get in football shape, too, so that’s a part of it.”
Derek Wolfe, who recently passed through concussion protocol and Kayvon Webster (ribs) both were on the field today, with helmets. Safety and No. 1 kick/punt returner Omar Bolden left practice early today. Kubiak said that the young defensive back was just a little winded and needed I.V. fluids.
The Broncos young offensive line continues to gel. They’re rallying behind incumbent veteran Louis Vasquez’s leadership, but they’re still having their ups and downs. Today, Kubiak talked about what the identity of his young O-line is at this point.
“We're fixing to find out,” he said. “They're a young group led by a heck of a player in Lou. I just think watching them grow up here throughout the course of camp, I'm excited about what they can be.”
Rookie Max Garcia recently found himself atop the depth chart at left guard. His primary focus has been on being consistent and he’s developing a friendly rivalry with his most frequent opponent, Malik Jackson.
“He [Jackson] gives me a great look every play,” Garcia said. “[He is] definitely one of the more challenging guys that I've been against in my whole football career. He's been making me better and telling me things that I need to work on. He's like, ‘Hey, don't do that. I can see it coming. I can read this in your stance.’ He's been giving me great tips—things that I will use against my opponents.”
In somewhat of a surprise, Matt Paradis was revealed as the No. 1 center on the Broncos first depth chart of the season. It’s unofficial and temporary, but it’s a sign of Paradis’ progress thus far. Garcia talked about the chemistry he has with the former Boise State Bronco.
“Since rookie minicamp, Matt and I have been working together,” Garcia said. “I feel like we probably have the most chemistry out of the people I played with at center or at tackle. I know what he's thinking.”
Shane Ray has struggled with the typical learning curve of a rookie. He was behind the eight-ball to start camp, having been limited with a foot injury for most of the offseason. When he does have a bad play, Kubiak doesn’t want him to be too hard on himself. In the NFL, you’ve got to have a short memory.
“The biggest thing with Shane, I don't want him to get too down when the days aren't good,” Kubiak said. “He's really hard on himself. [We're] trying to get him to, when it's a bad play, to go to the next one. It's a good thing that he's hard on himself, but that's pro football. There are good players. Sometimes you're going to get blocked and then go make the next play.”
The Broncos will practice tomorrow morning in preparation of their Friday road trip to Seattle. The practice will be closed to the fans. Don’t expect any of the banged up guys to play Friday, like Harris or Austin. Kubiak was noncommittal today on how much Manning and some of the other first-team veterans will play.
But Friday will be the first litmus test of the Kubiak era in Denver. With the question marks surrounding the Broncos young, inexperienced O-line, we certainly will be ‘fixin’ to find out’ what they’re made of vs. a very physical and explosive Seahawks defense. Can you think of a better way to test the mettle of this young group of guys?
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