Broncos Inside Slant - August 11

Read our weekly report on the Broncos with notes, quotes, anecdotes, battle of the week, player of the week, rookies to watch and all the latest personnel moves.

If Saturday's preseason game is any indication, get ready for plenty of play-action boots and rollouts by Jake "The Snake" Plummer. He showed he clearly is better on the run, much better than exiled starter Brian Griese.

"Griese is great as a drop-back passer, and Griese is not a bad quarterback," tight end Shannon Sharpe said. "Don't ever mistake that. But their strengths are entirely different. Jake can make plays outside the pocket. That's what you need in the West Coast offense."

Though Plummer played just two series in the preseason opener, he was on top of his game - with sharp passes on the run, and speed to buy time.

"He just fits this offense so perfectly," wide receiver Ashley Lelie said. "It's going to be hard to attack him, when you can't get your hands on him."

Tight end Shannon Sharpe went one better.

"I told the guys we've got a chance to be something special this year because this guy can really make some plays," he said "I'm glad to have him in our camp."

Plummer knows it was only preseason, but he even felt good about the crisp TD drive that covered 73 yards, and ended with his 12-yard pass to Chris Cole.

It was the first touchdown pass by a Broncos starting quarterback in at least two summers.

Whereas Griese was sacked three times a year ago in Denver's preseason opener, Plummer skated free of pressure.

No one was happier than Plummer's offensive linemen, who have battled injury this camp.

"It makes it lot easier especially if you do get beat a little bit inside. You know you can count on him to scramble out of the pocket and make things happen," right tackle Matt Lepsis said.

Added right guard Dan Neil, "It helps because his running ability is an added dimension," Neil said. "He makes things happen. The defense has got to worry about one more guy running the football."

Look for plenty more play-action, especially with Offensive Rookie of the Year Clinton Portis in the backfield.

"With the running game we have with Clinton, they have to bring eight guys down, so that helps me a whole lot being able to run the play-action," Plummer said.

"And that really opens up the offense for us. I mean he can get five or six yards every time, so that puts a lot of pressure on the defense to bring guys down to the line."

CAMP CALENDAR: Camp ends Aug. 15.

NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
--Cedric Sapp is listed No. 2 on the depth chart at running back, but he might as well by No. 4. While Clinton Portis is the undisputed starter, the Broncos also have converted fullbacks Mike Anderson and Reuben Droughns capable of carrying.
Against Houston, Droughns showed he's capable of doing some damage. He carried six times for 41 yards and a 6.8-yard average. He also caught two screen passes, and turned them upfield for 27 yards.

--John Mobley has been there before but he's growing frustrated with his achy knees, which kept him out of the preseason opener.
He had a small amount of fluid drained from his left knee but is more worried about the right. He said the right knee never quite healed from arthroscopic surgery in January.

"I've been battling it all off-season. I thought I'd be ready for training camp but obviously it's not strong enough yet," he said. "But once we get into the season and it's not as rigorous, I think I'll be back to normal."
Starting in his place, Jashon Sykes struggled to defend the pass.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We get the first game here and hopefully the last game." --Running back Clinton Portis on playing in the preseason opener in Houston, site of Super Bowl XXXVIII.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Broncos cut injured receiver Darcey Levy and signed former University of Colorado cornerback Ben Kelly to add depth at the position. Kelly responded with a goal-line interception to seal Denver's 20-12 win over Texas.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Jarious Jackson took the majority of reps after starter Jake Plummer in a bid to save his job. Jackson, in the final year of his contract, is being challenged by Danny Kanell and knows he has to pick up his play.
Against the Texans, there was some reason for hope. He showed more poise in the pocket, and tried to scramble only when he needed to. He finished just 4 of 13 for 56 yards, but three of the incompletions were drops.
Kanell was 3 of 6 for 47 yards, but he was sacked once and nearly intercepted.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Matt McBriar has been booming punts in practice in his bid to unseat Micah Knorr, but that wasn't the case in Saturday's game. His first went only 39 yards, with a net of only 18 after a 21-yard return.
"Before the game I was pretty calm and relaxed, but once I got out there I realized it was a different ballgame. I was pretty nervous," said McBriar, an Australian who grew up playing rugby not football. "You've got to be perfect every time, otherwise, you can see that last kick where the guy ran it back (65) yards."
McBriar has a few other things working against him. He doesn't hold or kick off, while Knorr does both.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Chris Cole pretty much locked up one of the receiver spots with a solid performance against the Texans. He caught two passes for 32 yards, including a 20-yarder across the middle that left him vulnerable to a helmet-rattling hit. He also returned a kickoff 31 yards and picked up 13 yards on a reverse.
Though Rod Smith, Ashley Lelie and Ed McCaffrey are the clear-cut 1-2-3 wideouts, Cole put some distance between himself and the other young receivers.
"Chris made a number of big catches," coach Mike Shanahan said. "His problem is he's been hurt. He has a lot of ability and speed, he's starting to grow in the offense and hopefully he can keep playing at that level."

ROOKIE REPORT: OT George Foster was supposed to return last Monday but still couldn't put much pressure on his sprained foot. He will try to work out this Monday, but has already missed valuable practice time ... LB Terry Pierce played well in the preseason opener, once he settled down and got the nerves out of his system ... RB Quentin Griffin is out another 3-4 weeks with a broken leg ... DE Nick Eason is second string at right defensive tackle behind Dorsett Davis ... WR Adrin Madise tried his hand at punt returns, and struggled, muffing one and going nowhere on several others ... C Ben Claxton is listed third team center, but he has pretty much secured a roster spot ... DE Aaron Hunt recorded the Broncos only sack in the preseason opener ... DE Clint Mitchell showed he's a quick healer after returning to practice despite an MCL injury ... RB Ahmaad Galloway remains hobbled with a sprained knee, and has lost ground on the depth chart.

INJURY REPORT: LT Ephraim Salaam is out another two weeks after knee surgery.
DT Daryl Gardener (wrist surgery) is out through the first two preseason games.
RB Quentin Griffin (broken leg) is out another month.
CB Deltha O'Neal didn't play the preseason opener (sprained ankle) but should be back soon.
OT George Foster was expected to begin practicing again Monday after missing two weeks with a sprained foot.

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